When Nino Niederreiter first caught the eyes of the Portland Winterhawks’ brass, the organization knew they were looking at a strong, mature, physical presence. And all the native of Chur, Switzerland has done so far is play a huge leadership role in Portland as the Winterhawks have begun a steady climb in the WHL’s Western Conference standings.
Through 37 regular season games, Niederreiter has collected 23 goals and 18 assists while playing alongside 2010 NHL Entry Draft-eligible linemates, Ryan Johansen and Brad Ross. Prior to his departure from Portland for the 2010 WJC, he was the league leader in scoring among rookies. Niederreiter, along with Team USA forward Luke Walker, are the two Winterhawks participating at this WJC.
Over the past week in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the 6-2, 205-pound forward has put his scoring exploits on display at the WJC. With three goals and three assists in four preliminary round games, Niederreiter has led an upstart Swiss group into some unfamiliar territory.
In the quarter-final game against Russia today, Niederreiter ripped a wrist shot past goaltender Igor Bobkov with 33 seconds to play in the third period to knot the tilt at 2-2. Then, with only 14 seconds remaining in overtime, the lanky power forward tallied the game winner. Both were unassisted, individual efforts.
The 3-2 victory marks the first time in WJC history that Switzerland has defeated the Russians, having played to a pair of 3-3 ties earlier in this decade. Switzerland moves on to face Team Canada in one of the semi-final games tomorrow. At worst, they will finish fourth at the 2010 WJC, the second best ever placing for the Swiss. Switzerland claimed a bronze medal in 1998.