MOSCOW (Reuters) - Matthew Lombardi scored twice as Canada avoided another Swiss shock, taming the Alpine nation 5-1 on Thursday to reach the semi-finals of the ice hockey world championship undefeated.
The Canadians joined hosts Russia and defending champions Sweden in the final four. The United States face off against Finland to decide the other semi-final berth later Thursday.
Canada entered the quarter-final as massive favorites but were wary of a Swiss side that provided the upset of the Turin Olympics when they stunned the 23-times world champions 2-0. It was Switzerland’s first win over the mighty Canadians in 82 years.
”We definitely didn’t want to under estimate this team,“ the Calgary Flames’ Lombardi told reporters. ”They work hard, play a great system and come a long way.
“Obviously we touched on it (Olympic upset) but we’re not going to talk about that the whole time. We had confidence in our group and knew if we played well we should win the game.”
With only two NHLers in their lineup, Montreal Canadiens team mates defenceman Mark Streit and backup netminder David Aebischer, the Swiss were given little chance of pulling off back-to-back upsets, but did provide Canada with a stern test, particularly during a tight opening period.
A sturdy defence and the brilliant play of Jonas Hiller, who is expected to sign with an NHL club for next season, kept the Swiss in the contest as Canada dominated the first period, out-shooting them 18-8.
Canada finally pierced the Swiss defence late in the opening frame when Lombardi was left unmarked in the slot, backhanding a low shot by Hiller.
“I think the first period was all right but we were too passive,” said Streit. “I thought we could have played a little more aggressively. If you want to win a hockey game you have to create offence and not just play great defence.”
The 2002 Olympic champions stepped up the pressure in the second period and went ahead 2-0 on a goal from St. Louis Blues’ Jamal Mayers but the gritty Swiss hit back just 38 seconds later when Paul Di Pietro unleashed a rocket from the slot that whistled past netminder Dwayne Roloson.
The goal surely sent a shudder through Canada’s bench, the Canadian-born Di Pietro having scored both goals in Switzerland’s Olympic upset.
Columbus Blue Jackets’s Rick Nash restored Canada’s two-goal cushion when he converted a powerplay chance with just over five minutes left in the second while Lombardi ended any thoughts of Swiss fight back in the third, notching his second of the game and a team-leading sixth goal.
Nashville Predators’s Shea Weber, who sat out a three-game suspension early in the championship for an illegal hit, closed out the scoring with his first of the tournament.