Canada ekes shootout win in exhibition

Brent Sutter may not have had much shootout success behind the bench of the Calgary Flames but his...

Brent Sutter may not have had much shootout success behind the bench of the Calgary Flames but his Team Canada squad managed a 2-1 shootout win over Switzerland in world championship exhibition play Sunday. (Reuters)

Terry Jones, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 7:56 PM ET

FRIBOURG, SWITZERLAND - Maybe Brent Sutter’s luck has changed.

His Calgary Flames only won three of 12 games which went to shootout this year, a significant statistic when you fall five points short of a playoff position.

Here Sunday, the former coach of the Flames won one in his debut with Team Canada preparing for the world hockey championships.

The road to Helskini started out here with Jordan Eberle scoring with 0.08 remaining on the scoreboard clock to tie the game and then scoring the only goal of the shootout. Oilers teammate Devan Dubnyk won player of the game honours in goal as Canada defeated Switzerland 2-1.

Canada beating Switzerland in a shootout in a pre-tournament game coming off their overseas flights is hardly cause for national celebration.

But Sutter liked what was involved. And the Central Alberta rancher and Red Deer Rebels owner, who is 19-0-1 coaching Canada in junior, definitely liked the result of the shootout after Flames’ defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, ironically, missed on the best chance to win it in overtime with 10 seconds to play.

First of all, there’s nothing like a reminder, before the tournament instead of during it, of how good these teams can be, especially when they are motivated by an opportunity to beat Team Canada.

This Swiss have been relatively successful at that recently. In the last four official meetings, Switzerland won in 2006 at the Olympics, 2010 world championships and lost in overtime in both the 2010 Olympics and 2011 Worlds.

And it was also a reminder of how significantly different the environment can be playing in Europe.

Fribourg, located 130 kilometres south of Zurich, is home to the largest protected medieval old town in Europe with a 6,800-seat classic old arena (accent more on old, than classic, unlike the old town) with right-on-top-of-you steep seating and a capacity crowd singing in the standing room end zones an hour before game time.

The Swiss who, like most European teams without an abundance of NHL talent to pick up, have been together for weeks. They played hard and well.

“To be involved in a game like that in a scene like that and to win it, it’s a positive,” said Sutter.

“The pace was really high for the first 40 minutes. The Swiss played a pretty good attack game. You could see us start to play straight-legged after that. We had guys like Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith who hadn’t even practised with the team once.”

There were no official shots on goal recorded in the pre-tournament game, but a good guess would have been that No. 40 made about 40 saves.

Dubnyk, the No. 3 goalie for Team Canada the previous two springs at the world, who had only seen 13 minutes of mop-up action in a tournament game against France, admitted he was a little anxious for this one.

“I really wanted it,” said the about-to-be-married 25-year-old, who finally earned Oilers No. 1 netminder status late this season.

Dubnyk had to deal not only with the Swiss but the arena, which features windows at either end with natural light in the building.

“It was weird. Especially with it being an afternoon game. At the other end in the second period, I found it a lot brighter.”

Dubnyk was also happy it didn’t feel like an exhibition game.

“That was a real good game. They played well. They’re a good team which always seems to play well against Canada,” he said of the squad Sherwood Park product Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes will face Tuesday in Kloten.

Dubnyk looked like he was going to end up with a loss when Daniel Rubin converted a pass from the corner with 1:50 remaining. He was out of the net for the final 53 seconds, watching Eberle even it up on a mid-air pass from Duncan Keith and then win it in the shootout.

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terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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