For two periods, Sweden outplayed and outscored Switzerland, looking destined to earn a spot on the podium. But Switzerland erupted for four goals in the third period, erasing a two-goal deficit and stealing a bronze medal from the clutches of the Swedes, winning 4-3.
Sara Benz, Phoebe Stanz, Jessica Lutz and Alina Muller all scored for the Swiss, while Florence Schelling stopped 28 of the 31 shots sent her way.
It was a pretty historic result for the Swiss, as Dan Marrazza of NBC Sports noted:
Not only did Switzerland pull off an epic comeback in this game, but it also did so in this tournament. Remember, the team went 0-3 in the preliminary rounds, losing to Canada, the United States and Finland.
But it was Sweden that completely dominated the first period, out-shooting the Swiss 10-1 and netting the first goal, which came off the stick of Michelle Lowenhielm (Maria Lindh and Cecilia Ostberg were credited with the assists).
Switzerland woke up in the second period, ripping off 12 shots, but Sweden goalkeeper Valentina Lizana-Wallner was up to the task, keeping the Swiss out of the net. The key moment came a little over halfway through the period, when the Swedes got caught in a line change and Stefanie Marty found herself free on a breakaway.
Lizana-Wallner took away her angle and made a nifty glove save to stone Marty and preserve the 1-0 lead.
The Swiss may have woken up in the second, but it was Sweden that scored the game's second goal with just a minute remaining in the period. Erica Uden Johansson skated into the zone and let rip with a knuckling slap shot toward goal. It appeared that Swiss 'keeper Schelling would get her glove on the shot and make a fairly routine save, but it tipped off her glove and caromed into the net.
Ostberg notched her second assist on the play.
Just over a minute into the third period, however, Switzerland was able to cut the lead in half. Sweden failed to clear the zone on several occasions and the puck fortuitously bounced in front of the goal to Benz, who promptly buried it in the net.
Sarah Forster and Lara Stalder earned the assists.
Six minutes later the Swiss made things really interesting, tying the game on the power play. Stanz snapped off a quick wrister after scooping up the rebound on a blocked shot, beating Lizana-Wallner. Muller earned the assist.
And the epic comeback continued at the 6:17 mark, as the Swiss took the lead. Stadler earned her second assist with a beauty of a pass across the face of goal to Lutz, who had a wide-open net to shoot into. Benz was awarded an assist as well.
Lutz is an interesting story, as she holds dual citizenship between the United States and Switzerland but decided to play for the Swiss, as she told Rick Maese of The Washington Post:
My chances—it wasn’t a realistic goal for me to play with the U.S. national team. There’s so many more girls who play in the U.S., so it’s so much more competitive to get a spot on the team. I knew my chances in Switzerland were a lot better.
Now, she has a bronze medal to show for her decision.
Muller would add an empty-netter to seemingly wrap things up. It was an extremely special goal for Muller when you consider the following from Andrew Siciliano of the NFL Network:
Amazingly, Switzerland has a 15-year old 10th grader, Alina Muller, on the ice in this bronze medal game.— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) February 20, 2014
What were you doing at 15?
Sweden didn't go down without a fight, however, continuing to put an extra attacker on the ice while pulling the goalie. And Pernilla Winberg managed to score with just 44 seconds remaining, giving the Swiss some pause.
But Switzerland managed to hold on, earning the bronze.
It was certainly an excellent appetizer before the main course later in the day, with heated rivals Canada and the United States set to do battle with a gold medal on the line. That's the game everyone has been waiting for, though the Swiss and Swedes certainly put on a show.
The hope is that this contest will help the game continue to grow in both countries. Both teams certainly gave a memorable performance.