On the fifth day of the World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia, monumental clashes have begun to clarify the knockout-round picture. Three of the six spots in the knockout bracket have now been reserved, with the other three to be filled tomorrow.
Here is a look at the day's games:
Finland 5, Switzerland 4 (SO)
Finland was pushed to the limit Sunday by a dangerous Switzerland team. The Group A favorites found themselves down by two and on the brink of elimination, before a furious comeback carried them past the Swiss in a shootout.
Last Friday, the Finns were dealt a discouraging upset by the Czech Republic. As a result of the loss, a second defeat would have extinguished Finland's medal hopes.
Group A dark horse Switzerland, on the other hand, bore little pressure having already surpassed pre-tournament expectations. It took defending gold-medal winner Sweden to a shootout in its last game. The Swiss proved that their early success in the tournament was no fluke, as they gave Finland all it could handle.
Switzerland took control of the game in the first period with goals from Lino Martschini and Sven Andrighetto. However, the 2-0 lead it carried into the break would not last.
Finland fired back with goals from Markus Granlund and Teuvo Teravainen to tie it up in the second.
At the start of the third, the seesaw tipped toward Switzerland once again. Alessio Bertaggia launched the Swiss back into the lead less than two minutes into the period. Dario Simion bought some insurance for the underdogs with another goal midway through the third, putting the Swiss up 4-2.
But for the second time in the game, Teravainen and Granlund hauled the Finns back from a two-goal deficit. Teravainen cut the lead to one just 1:36 after Simion's goal.
Five minutes later, the Finns replaced goaltender Joonas Korpisalo with an extra attacker and Granlund redeemed his team with the tying goal.
After a scoreless overtime period, it was Granlund again who scored the winner in the shootout, reviving Finland's medal hopes.
The Finns will now take on rival Sweden on Monday. They will likely need a win to advance.
The Swiss also find themselves in a must win situation, as they prepare to play the Czech Republic.
Canada 2, USA 1
Team Canada hung on to win a wild clash with Team USA to seal its place in the knockout stages.
Canada entered the game undefeated but scrutinized after two flawed victories over Germany and Slovakia. Criticism focused specifically on the defense and goaltending. After surrendering six goals in two games against weak opponents, many fans have called for changes, especially in net where Malcolm Subban has controversially hung on to his starting job ahead of the popular Jordan Binnington.
After a brilliant defensive effort against the U.S., those questions have been answered.
On the other side of the matchup, Team USA hoped to recover from a 2-1 loss to host country Russia on Friday. The lack of scoring depth that plagued the team against Russia remained an issue.
Canada took a two-goal lead in the first with goals from the tournament's top two point-getters, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan Strome.
Team USA failed to answer back despite plenty of chances in the second, and were held in the game by the superb play of goaltender John Gibson.
Gibson's effort was only outdone by Canada's Malcolm Subban who was dominant throughout the game, making 36 saves. Any concern about Subban's play should surely be relieved after the spectacular performance.
Subban only surrendered one goal in the contest. That goal came on an American power play and was spurred by an incredible Gibson save on a Canadian short-handed breakaway. The Americans picked up the rebound and blazed down the ice with excellent pace. Alex Galchenyuk then set up defenseman Jacob Trouba for his third goal of the tournament.
Following the goal, momentum shifted sharply in favor of the Red, White and Blue. A number of quick chances for the USA nearly tied the game but were denied by the sprawling Subban.
After its brief stint of dominance, the American comeback was halted by a string of penalties. In the final 10 minutes, Canada found itself with a two-man advantage twice. Although Team USA was able to kill off the penalties with excellent work from Gibson in net, the time needed for a tying goal slipped away.
The Americans were left with just over a minute and a half to tie the game after their final penalty kill. In a moment of luck they drew a Canadian penalty from Nugent-Hopkins, giving them the man-advantage for the remainder of the game.
For the second straight game, the Americans found themselves on the power play down by one with a minute remaining. On Friday, the scenario ended with a loss to Russia.
Sunday was no different, as Subban snuffed out any American comeback hopes in the closing moments.
Team Canada can clinch a quarterfinal bye with a win in the group stage's marquee matchup against Russia on Monday.
Meanwhile, Team USA must defeat Slovakia to advance.
Czech Republic 4, Latvia 2
The Czech Republic officially ended Latvia's hopes of winning a group stage game in Ufa.
The Czechs came into the game two days removed from a huge victory over Finland that has boosted their medal hopes.
Latvia, conversely, suffered brutal defeats in its first three games at the hands of Finland, Switzerland and Sweden. It has now completed its group schedule with an 0-4 record and is the current favorite to be relegated from the top division.
Petr Beranek got the Czech Republic off on the right foot with a goal midway through the first period.
Nikita Jevpalovs still hoped Latvia might earn one scalp in Group A and scored the tying goal just before the first intermission.
Martin Frk put the Czech Republic back on top early in the second, with the help of Petr Sidlik and Radek Faksa. Twenty minutes of hockey and a circle of the Zamboni later, Roberts Lipsbergs knotted the game at two. The goal would be Latvia's last of the group stage.
Dmitrij Jaskin put the Czechs ahead for good with six minutes remaining in the game, and Martin Frk sealed it with his second goal of the day just 27 seconds from the final buzzer.
The Czech Republic will face Switzerland tomorrow with a knockout stage spot up for grabs.
Slovakia 2, Germany 1 (OT)
Slovakia claimed its first win of the tournament with a 2-1 overtime victory.
The Slovakians, who entered with just one point in Group B, now find themselves tied with the United States for third place. Their first win comes on the heels of a 6-3 loss to Canada on Friday.
Germany ends its group stage schedule 0-4 despite playing its best game of the tournament. The Germans lost their first three games by a combined margin of 24-1.
The game was scoreless until midway through the second period when Germany's Tobias Rieder scored his second goal of the tournament, assisted by Leon Draisaitl and Dominik Kahun.
Goaltender Marvin Cupper was magnificent for Germany making 40 saves, but despite his outstanding performance he could not stop them all.
Slovakia's Bruno Mraz tied the game at one, four minutes into the third period. Mraz's goal forced the game into overtime.
On the power play, Peter Ceresnak blasted the puck past Cupper from the point to give Slovakia the victory.
Slovakia is now set to face the United States on Monday with a place in the knockout stage on the line. Germany on the other hand will await the beginning of the relegation round, where they will likely battle with Latvia for a place in the 2014 tournament.
1. Malcolm Subban, Canada
Canadian goalie Malcolm Subban overcame intense criticism over the past few weeks to lead Canada to a crucial victory over Team USA. Subban made 36 saves and only surrendered one goal. Head Coach Steve Spott finally appears fully justified in starting Subban over backup Jordan Binnington.
2. Markus Granlund, Finland
Markus Granlund scored two huge goals to bring Finland back from the dead against Switzerland. He also beat Swiss goalie Melvin Nyffeler in the shootout to give Finland a desperately needed victory. He is now tied for the tournament goal-scoring lead with four.
3. John Gibson, USA
John Gibson was unbelievable for Team USA in a losing effort. He held a Canadian team that scored 15 goals in its first two games to just two. He made countless big saves throughout the game and he killed off a pair of Canadian 5-on-3's late in the third period to give his team a chance to win the game.