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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Coach, front office lead USA to semis


That’s all that separated Team USA from Switzerland in the quarterfinal yesterday.

And throughout the game, it looked as though Swiss goaltender Jonas Hiller was a gigantic brick wall in net. The 28-year-old Anaheim Duck was brilliant, stopping 42.5 shots, but in the end he needed to stop all 43.


Zach Parise’s redirection two minutes into the third period went off Hiller’s chest, took an unbelievable bounce and trickled past the goal line. That was all the scoring the Americans needed.

But just minutes later, it looked as though Switzerland had tied things up as Sandy Jeannin fired a shot that zipped across the goal line, but the puck rang off the far post and back into play.

If that puck finds a way into the net, and Parise’s deflection bounces toward the wrong side of the post, Team USA could be packing its bags and heading back to its respective NHL teams. That’s how tight this quarterfinal was, but luckily, the Swiss are on their way home to eat their delicious chocolate and play with their army knives (Yeah, aside from Roger Federer, that’s all I know about their country).

Now this narrow 2-0 victory might frighten fans that look at the bracket and see teams like revenge-driven Canada and Sweden lurking, but rest assured, this win was extremely impressive.

The young Americans had to deal with a ton of pressure and newfound expectations, and while Switzerland may not have a roster loaded with NHL star power, the Swiss have proven to be a tough out over the years. In Torino, Switzerland beat Canada and the Czech Republic, and this year it took the host nation to a shootout.

So who deserves the credit for Team USA’s flawless trip to the semis? We’ve heard all about Ryan Miller’s brilliance, and he has undoubtedly been the major reason the Americans are still playing, but it’s time to give some love to head coach Ron Wilson and general manager Brian Burke for the work they’ve done with this group.

The message after the Canada victory

While everyone was busy talking about how close the Americans’ victory over Canada was to the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” (nowhere close by the way) Burke had a slightly different message to his team.

“I’m not happy with the way we played,” Burke told reporters after the game. “If that’s how we play, we’re going to have a hard time getting where we want to be. We have 10 guys carrying us. Everything gets ratcheted up now. We’ve got to ratchet it up. They don’t give medals for finishing first in the preliminary round.”

Not exactly what you’d expect to hear after taking down a team you haven’t beaten in 50 years — but that is the exact message this team needed.

Burke was right; Team USA hadn’t won anything yet.

They had no pressure on them, they played that way and they squeaked out a win. It wasn’t a time to pat these 20-somethings on the back because this team needed to be ready, and it needed to be better for a gutsy Switzerland squad.

Questionable roster decisions paying off

As a diehard Devils fan, this is tough to admit, but Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan — two Rangers — have excelled in this tournament, and they have contributed heavily to Team USA’s success.

We all owned the right to be skeptical of their spots at first, but Wilson and Burke knew what they were doing adding these guys to the roster.

Drury had a measly 22 points in 57 games with the Rangers and has (quite frankly) underperformed ever since signing a huge contract and joining the blue shirts. Callahan is a relative unknown who wouldn’t instantly come to mind when making an American all-star team.

But these two forwards have been dynamite on the defensive end in Vancouver. Last week, I wrote that Drury and Callahan needed to be a force defensively and in the “hard areas” that UW head coach Mike Eaves constantly speaks of. They have done just that. On the penalty kill specifically, Drury and Callahan have been flying around, blocking shots and passing lanes, frustrating the opposition to death.

In the final minutes against Canada and in yesterday’s quarterfinal, the two of them showed blatant disregard for their bodies, stepping in front of countless 90-plus mile-an-hour shots, and in the process, they showed how important they are to this team.

A willingness to shuffle lines

Line chemistry — it’s tough to find and even tougher to keep, and it’s the coach’s job to set up that line chart before every game.

Simply put, Wilson’s lines weren’t working early in this tournament. Some coaches will stick with their decisions and allow chemistry to (hopefully) develop.

Wilson knew he didn’t have that kind of time.

The USA head coach took Patrick Kane off the first line and promoted Jamie Langenbrunner to the top unit.

That move has worked wonders as the Parise-Stasny-Langenbrunner combination dominated the Swiss, while Kane has improved playing alongside the physical combination of Ryan Kesler and Dustin Brown.

Wilson has shown a willingness to shuffle lines before, after and during games, allowing Team USA to find its groove.

To be successful in a heated tournament like this, every aspect of your team needs to be clicking from your fourth-line to center to your general manager.

And thanks to this combined team effort, Team USA is sitting pretty as the No.1 seed, and it’s giving America something truly unexpected to cheer about it.

Max is a junior majoring in journalism. Are you surprised by Team USA’s success? Think Ryan Miller is the one and only reason the Americans are unbeaten? E-mail him at [email protected]

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