After Wednesday's Olympic men's hockey results from Sochi, only four teams remain in contention for the gold medal.
Top-seeded Sweden laid waste to Slovenia to open up the action on Day 12, and the big win foreshadowed an afternoon in Sochi that belonged to the favorites.
In all four quarterfinals matchups, the top seed advanced.
Here's a look at the final scores for all four games from Wednesday:
|United States||Czech Republic||5-2|
This doesn't happen every time the Winter Games are held, but all four top seeds are headed to the semifinals.
Here's a look at the updated bracket, courtesy of FanSided:
Henrik Lundqvist pitched a shutout for Sweden against Slovenia, and Carl Hagelin scored twice in the 5-0 rout. This was an expected result, especially in light of Slovenia being a tired team, while Sweden had been resting up.
Via Shawn P. Roarke NHL.com, Hagelin said:
When we got that second goal, we knew they had played the night before and, usually, when you play the night before, you are going to have a strong start to the game, but if you don't get a goal you are going to feel the energy go away. After we scored that second goal, it felt like they didn't have much left. We did play a lot stronger and better on the puck in the third.
Sweden will now take on No. 4 seed Finland in the semifinals after Finland defeated Russia on Wednesday, 3-1.
Goalie Tuukka Rask was absolutely phenomenal against the host nation, thwarting 37 of the 38 shots he faced. His fine play was more than good enough to send Finland to the semifinals, as Juhamatti Aaltonen, Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund all scored.
The Russian crowd (as well as the team) was understandably crushed by the loss, which makes three straight Olympic appearances without a medal, per ESPN Stats & Info:
On the other side of the bracket, Canada and Team USA both advanced, setting up a North American semifinals matchup that should live up to any and all hype surrounding it.
The Americans breezed past the Czech Republic, 5-2, thanks to another stellar offensive showing. In reality, the contest wasn't even that close, as the losing team scored a meaningless goal in the final minutes.
This is a squad that continues to grow and build upon every win, and this isn't happening by accident.
"Obviously, winning your pool is a good thing, but there's also a very big portion outside of just winning the games," head coach Dan Bylsma said before Wednesday's contest, via Scott Burnside of ESPN.com. "We have to build this team, and you've got to be able to keep working to get better, keep working to build, to get ready for your fourth game."
Team USA will need a similar growth spurt in the semifinals to avoid losing to Canada, which is always formidable in Olympic competition.
Though Canada was heavily favored to beat Latvia, it was a struggle to advance.
Winning by a narrow margin of 2-1, the Canadians are still in great shape to repeat as gold-medal winners in men's hockey.
After Canada barely squeaked past a team that should have never had a chance, Peter Mansbridge of CBC made an amusing comment on Twitter regarding the close score compared to the NHL salaries of those competing:
Shea Weber came through with the game-winning goal with just under seven minutes left in regulation. From there, Canada's formidable defense kept Latvia from making the game interesting in the waning moments.
The semifinals games will be contested on Friday, Feb. 21.
The losing teams will then meet up in the bronze-medal game on Saturday, with the winners getting a day off to prepare for the gold-medal game on Sunday, which is the final day of competition at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
Hockey fans are in for a fantastic series of final games, as the gold medal is still very much in play for all four teams remaining.
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