Fans of the North American team at the World Cup of Hockey - And, at this point, who isn't a fan of Team North America? - got some good news and some bad news when Jack Eichel and Co. earned a 4-3 overtime win over Sweden in their final preliminary game on Wednesday.
Let's start with the good news: by beating Sweden, North America kept its hopes of advancing to the semifinal round alive. The bad news is that Sweden clinched the top seed by simply going to overtime and earning a point in the standings, leaving North America at the mercy of the outcome of Thursday's matchup between Russia and Finland on Thursday.
Now, it comes down to Sabre versus Sabre for the final semifinal spot. If Dmitry Kulikov and Russia win against Finland on Thursday, they advance. If they lose, the berth goes to Eichel and North America. Russia gets the nod over North America in a tie as the result of the head-to-head tiebreaker (Russia defeated North America 4-3 on Monday).
The game between North America and Sweden on Wednesday was a thriller from beginning to end, with the two teams combining for five goals in the first period alone. Eichel earned a secondary assist on the second goal, scored by Vincent Trocheck 1:35 into the contest, and tallied five shots in 16:16 of ice time.
Sweden tied the game at 3-3 thanks to a goal by Patrik Berglund 6:50 into the third period, but Nathan MacKinnon won the game for his continent with 49 seconds remaining in overtime. MacKinnon got in alone and danced with the puck, just barely evading the reach of Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist to net the winning goal.
Ryan O'Reilly and Canada, meanwhile, remained undefeated to conclude their preliminary round with a 4-1 win over Europe Wednesday night. Both teams will advance, with Canada taking the top seed and therefore facing either North America or Russia in the semifinal. Sweden and Europe will comprise the other semifinal.
O'Reilly skated 13:00 and registered one shot on goal.
Kulikov and Russia's matchup with Rasmus Ristolainen and Finland is set for 3 p.m. on ESPN. Finland is winless in two games and has been eliminated from advancing to the semifinal round.
Stay tuned to Sabres.com for the outcome of that game and for updates throughout the remainder of the tournament.