Belarus-Switzerland Preview

BY foxsports • February 22, 2010

Switzerland won its final group game, although the victory may not have been nearly as confidence-inspiring as a loss in its previous contest was. Belarus is looking to carry over some momentum from its first Olympic victory in eight years.

With a game against the top-seeded United States a reward for the winner, the teams will try to build on their modest success in Vancouver when they meet in a playoff qualification match Tuesday.

Switzerland finished third in Group A after Romano Lemm scored 2:28 into overtime for a 5-4 victory over winless Norway on Saturday. Despite getting their first win of the tournament, the Swiss weren't happy with their performance after putting a scare into Canada two days prior, rallying from a two-goal deficit before losing 3-2 in a shootout.

"Against the Canadians we played simple, we played our game," said Jonas Hiller, who had 19 saves Saturday after making 44 against Canada. "We tried to create some offensive zone time when we cycled the puck. We didn't do that (against Norway). We were just throwing pucks at the net but there was nobody in front of the net and we barely got any second chances.

"We know we have to play better. It was a good lesson for us."

Belarus comes into its first Olympic meeting with Switzerland off a 5-3 win over Germany on Saturday, its first Olympic victory since beating Sweden in the quarterfinals in 2002 en route to a fourth-place finish.

Another difficult quarterfinal matchup is in store for Belarus or Switzerland on Wednesday, with the unbeaten United States looming as the winner's opponent.

The Belarusians, though, feel they are getting better after losing their first two Group C games. They fell 4-2 to Sweden - the reigning gold medal winner - Friday in a rematch of the upset in Salt Lake City, two nights after losing 5-1 to 2006 silver medalist Finland.

Belarus didn't qualify for the 2006 Olympics.

"We played every game better and better," said right wing Sergei Kostitsyn, the team leader with five points. "Against Sweden we played good and then we played great. Our confidence level is now much better than before."

One of two NHL players on Belarus, Kostitsyn leads the team with five points after getting a goal and three assists against Germany.

Switzerland has also relied on a roster built around two NHL players in Hiller and Mark Streit, who had two assists in group play. Hiller posted a 3.20 goals-against average during the round.

Roman Wick leads Switzerland with two goals and two assists after getting three points Saturday.

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