It almost sounds like a spell. No matter which Swiss defender you ask, the answer is pretty much the same. “It’s modern hockey where the defenders support the attack, jump in the gaps and become the fourth striker,” explains Tobias Geisser. With Christian Marti it goes like this: “The coaches want us to go with them. It’s modern hockey where the fourth man calls out and creates the majority.”
And the mantra works. Before the final group match against Latvia, which was meaningless for Switzerland, six of the eight defenders who were shown on their chests scored at least one goal. The other two, Dean Kukan and Michael Vora, had three and two assists, respectively.
In the shadow of NHL stars
There has been a lot of hustle and bustle around highly paid NHL forwards like Nico Hischier, Kevin Fiala, Nino Niederreiter or Denis Malgin. But under them, the defense, including the goalkeepers, is doing an impressive job. With six goals conceded ahead of the Latvia game on Tuesday night, Switzerland were the third-best defensive team behind Sweden (3) and the United States (5). In addition, more than a quarter of all goals were scored by defenders.
And this is no coincidence. Since 2016, shortly after national coach Patrick Fischer took over, the Swiss defense has been taken over by Swede Tommy Alblin, a proven expert. His meticulous work pays off, and players greedily absorb his motto and advice. They are interested in the former New Jersey Devils defenseman with over 1,000 NHL appearances and a world title with Sweden in Palmares.
An eye for detail
“You just listen to someone like that when they say something,” Roman Lovell, who scored two goals in Riga, assures. After a disappointing season with Bern, the 32-year-old has blossomed from Neuchâtel. He really excelled in preparation as a wise and dangerous puck dealer and shooter on the blue line, not least in the majority game. Albelin also lives by his faith, and his expert eye is a great addition to the team. “He works big on the little things, the details, and the ones you don’t do in a club,” enthuses the 58-year-old Lovell, who still lives in New Jersey.
Andrea Glauser, another defender who didn’t have the best season at Lausanne and is now impressive in the national team, gives what defenders mean. “At first it was almost too much,” admits the man from Freiburg. «Hold the sled like this, put the stick like this, and so on. But then I realized how much you learn and it’s just fun.” Loeffel also has a specific example: “He told me, for example, that I shouldn’t get too far after a shot. It’s these details that make us better.”
Offensive output and defensive stability are by no means separate. “Offense is the best defence,” says Tobias Gesser. “Even if you don’t score a goal, you are close to the opponent and can block a quick counter-attack.” The Zug defender also emphasizes the action of the strikers. “We do a big terrible check, which makes it difficult for the opponent to get out of his area quickly.”
The shape curve is correct
All of this helps Patrick Fisher’s plan work perfectly so far. After difficult preparations, the players still had somewhat heavy legs at the start of the World Cup, as expected, but clearly still dominated the weaker opponent. Now they are getting closer to the top level, as they proved at the weekend with victories against Canada and the Czech Republic, and they were already confirmed as group winners before the last game, offering the chance to give tired or slightly injured players a run for their feet. break.
Unlike in previous years, Fisher believes he is well prepared so that there will be no disappointment in the quarter-finals on Thursday. The plan, which will be new, can succeed in the final stage.
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