Swiss pick 'Peg for Oly pit stop

By KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

Katherin Lehmann is packing a good luck charm for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

In doing so, the captain of Switzerland's national women's hockey team is keeping a promise she made before scoring the biggest goal in the history of the program back in 2008 at the IIHF World Women's Hockey Championship in Harbin, China.

"I brought the stick with me that I scored on the penalty shot with, even though it's broken," Lehmann said yesterday before practice at the Dakota Community Club. "I promised the stick before I shot that if I scored, I would bring it to Vancouver and it's here."

After scoring twice in regulation time, Lehmann was the only player to deliver in the shootout and knocking off Sweden 4-3 allowed Switzerland to advance to the bronze-medal game against Finland.

They lost 4-1 to Finland, but the fourth-place finish is the best result Switzerland has ever posted.

"That was amazing, especially for me because I play in Sweden and I basically learned how to do the shootout in Sweden," said Lehmann, who has been a member of the Swiss national team for the past 16 years. "It was fantastic the way we performed against a great nation like Sweden. I will never forget that."

In preparation for the Olympics, the Swiss team decided to come to Winnipeg for just over a week of training before departing on Feb. 9.

Part of the reason for coming was to build on the positive vibe they felt during a fifth place finish at the 2007 world women's championship held at the MTS Centre.

"Winnipeg was one of our most successful world's that we've played and it's always great to come back to a place where you have great memories," said Lehmann. "I hope we can take these memories, get some new courage and energy and fly to Vancouver."

This will be just the second trip to the Olympics for Switzerland's women's hockey team and they're going into the event with reasonable expectations.

"Our goal is to finish in the Top-6," said Rene Kammerer, who has been head coach of the women's national team since the summer of 2004 and led them to a 7th-place finish at the Olympics in Turin. "We have a very young team and a fast team. But we have big hearts and I love the spirit. We have nothing to lose. Anything is possible."

Switzerland opens round- robin action with a game against Sweden on Feb. 13 and they'll face Canada two days later.

"It's one of the biggest honours you can have to play against one of the greatest teams," said Lehmann, when asked about the importance of facing Canada. "It's huge. We have to be realistic. We cannot go in and say we're going to win gold, like USA or Canada or even Sweden. But we know if we play our best we can challenge any team.

"I've experienced every step of the development and I'm very proud how far we've come. More is coming, but we need a successful Olympics. It doesn't mean we have to win a medal but we have to win hearts. If we can do that, (women's hockey in) Switzerland has a great future."

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