The 2013 IIHF World Hockey Championship wrapped up a couple weeks ago in Sweden and Finland with this year’s winner being the host Sweden team. This year the tournament had its fair share of interesting story lines from the amazing place of the Switzerland team to France pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history. So, with the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games just around the corner there might be some early signs of what’s to come in Russia when the world’s elite will play for gold.
Canada once again came up short in the quarterfinals, losing to host Sweden 3-2 in a shootout. The early exit however, has become somewhat of a ritual for the Canucks over the past four tournaments. The Canadians have not captured a tournament win since 2007 when they defeated Finland 2-1 in the gold medal game.
However, this year the biggest blunder by one of the stronger teams in the world came at the hands of the Russians. A very strong Russian team that included superstars such as Alex Semin, Alex Radulov, Ilya Kovalchuck, and Ilya Bryzgalov lost a shocker to France 2-1.
France has never been a force in World Championship play, in fact their strongest finish in the tournaments history was 6th place. A finish they have never been able to meet since they achieved this back in 1930. To also put the loss into perspective, France did not qualify for the upcoming Olympic Games.
However, the biggest story of the tournament was the stellar play of Switzerland. Switzerland finished the round robin with 20 points, good enough to be the top team from either pool. The Swiss defeated the Czech Republic, moving on to the semifinals where they will met the USA. In their semi-final match against the Americans, Swiss played another dominate game and took the contest 3-0, sending them to the finals for the first time in team history.
The Swiss historically have never fared much in the tournament except for playing somewhat of a spoiler to other nations. The Swiss’ only other significant achievement came back in 2010 when they defeated Canada 2-1 for the first time in the tournament’s existence.
The Swiss during the tournament defeated both the Czech Republic and Sweden (the eventual tournament champs), both of who will be in the same pool as the Swiss during the Olympics, which could be a good sign for the Swiss moving forward.
However, it is important to know that the teams that are taking part in the World Championships right now will be greatly improved come the Olympics with the additions of many more NHL players who will join their fellow countries. Though, the approval of NHLers being allowed to compete in next year’s games has yet to be determined.
So, heading into the 2014 Olympic Games it will be very interesting to see if more shocking upsets and Cinderella stories will be made. Could we be starting to see an emergence of new hockey powers in the world? For now only time will tell.
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