Team USA struggles in final qualifying game, loses to Switzerland 5-3

Team USA’s efforts to improve their position for the elimination round of the 2011 IIHF World Championships fell by the wayside today as an energized and intense Team Switzerland came out and stifled the Americans on their way to a 5-3 win in the final game of the qualifying round.

Team USA got some reinforcements today in the form of Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk and he made his presence felt in the game scoring a goal in the third period, but his efforts alone weren’t enough to lead the Americans to victory. University of Wisconsin product and Nashville Predators prospect scored as did Senators forward Ryan Shannon to provide the offense for Team USA, but their issues were in goal today.

Ty Conklin got the start but made just 12 saves in 31 minutes played as he allowed four goals. Al Montoya replaced him and closed the door stopping all 12 shots he saw as it would be just an empty net goal that would provide the rest of the Swiss offense. Switzerland was led by Kevin Lotscher who scored twice, his second of the game providing the difference maker and giving them a 4-2 lead at the time.

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Team USA is now set for the elimination round of the tournament and they’ll have a date with Jaromir Jagr’s Czech Republic team. With host Slovakia out of the tournament, expect that the crowd will be very much pro-Czech as visitors from the neighboring country will pack out the arena.

The Czech Republic locked up the top spot in their group while Team USA finishes fourth in theirs. Getting the chance to face off against Jagr’s team with Ondrej Pavelec in net will provide this very young American team quite the challenge if they want to earn a medal in this year’s tournament. Pavelec has been lights out all tournament going 5-0 with a 1.40 goals against average and a .945 save percentage. The Czechs are teeming over with talent, however, as they’re rolling with Patrik Elias, Martin Havlat, and Tomas Plekanec. The deck is certainly stacked up against Team USA but this tournament is always ripe for surprises.

Here are the highlights from today’s game.

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