Switzerland scored a 6-4 victory over Slovakia in Group A while Sweden remained unbeaten in Group B with a 6-3 triumph over the Czech Republic during Thursday's preliminary-round action in the World Junior Championship.
Switzerland's triumph automatically ensures Team USA a quarterfinal round berth even before their games against Germany on Thursday and Switzerland on New Year's Eve.
Samuel Walser scored the game-winner 14:06 into the third period to give Switzerland a 5-4 lead at HSBC Arena. Inti Pestoni then scored into an empty net to close out the scoring. Slovakia, which played with just five defensemen as two others were serving suspensions, rallied from a 4-2 deficit on third-period goals by Andrej Stastny and Richard Panik.
Swiss captain Nino Niederreiter scored his second of the tournament and 2011 draft-eligible prospect Sven Baertschi notched his first in the victory. Dario Trutmann chipped in with two assists for Switzerland and Michael Vandas had three assists for the Slovaks.
"Everyone played well, and this was a huge win for us," Niederreiter said. "It was a fun game to play, but not so much in the third period, when we let them back into the game."
The Swiss, United States, and Finland battle it out for first place -- and subsequent bye to the semifinals -- tomorrow while Slovakia will go into the relegation round with two points.
Meanwhile, over at Dwyer Arena on the campus of Niagara University, Sweden struck for five straight goals after spotting Czech Republic a 1-0 lead 3:09 into the game.
Johan Larsson and Max Friberg scored power-play goals to give Sweden a 2-1 lead before Jesper Fasth made it 3-1 at 17:09 into the first. Sebastian Wannstrom and Fasth connected in the opening 5:42 of the second before the Czechs pulled to within 5-3 on a pair of goals by 2012 draft-eligible standout Martin Frk.
Sweden will play Canada on New Year's Eve with the winner earning first place in Group B. The Czech Republic and Russia will play at Dwyer Arena the same day, with the loser heading to relegation.
If Russia ends up among the four last teams of the championship, it will be a first, and a major disappointment. If the Czechs miss the playoff round, it will be a continuation of a trend which has been in place since the Czech Republic won a bronze medal in 2005.
"We lost something when we led 5-1," said Sweden's Fasth. "We lost focus or humbleness or both. But we came back and won and that was the main thing."