Time to seperate the wheat from the chaff. Three teams playing today already know they'll be in the qualification round starting Friday, but for the other five, it's a big day. Denmark, leaders of Group D, take on the host German squad who currently occupy the 3rd place spot as a result of their overtime win over the USA to start the tournament. That might be good enough to get in, but a win over Denmark would put them through. In early Group B action, Italy and Latvia battle, with the winner placing 3rd and moving into qualification, while the loser goes into the relegation round. To watch either of these games, you'll have to head over to the IIHF website.
Later on (2:15 PM EST), we have Team USA play Finland. Finland sits second in Group D with three points, while the USA sits last with two points (and no wins). The Americans will definitely need some points out of this game, and preferably not another OT loss, though they could get through with another one of those. Both teams control their own destiny: a win would put them through. Both teams could also use some goal support... based on the games so far, this might be quite low scoring. Universal Sports will be broadcasting this game online.
At the same time, Canada takes on Switzerland in the battle for 1st in Group B. The result will carry forward into the qualification round, so in a way, it's like the second phase of the tournament has already begun for these two. Switzerland is known to play Canada quite tight, most recently forcing Canada into a shootout at the 2010 Olympics, so this should be a tightly contested game. TSN will be broadcasting this game online.
Stick around to chat about the games. The early ones start at 10:15 AM EST.
UPDATE: Germany wins and advances, Latvia knocks Italy to relegation
Germany 3, Denmark 1: Despite Denmark's recent accomplishments, this isn't really a surprising result. That both teams have advanced and one of Finland or the USA will not is the more surprising result. This means the winner of USA/Finland will advance. Tiebreaking scenarios will be needed to determine the final Group D standings, with many possibilities as of right now.
Latvia 5, Italy 2: No surprises here in Group B. Latvia moves on to the qualification round, but they won't have any points carry forward since their only win was against Italy, who is now in the relegation round. Latvia will be in tough to make the playoffs, but they still have a chance. Latvia will play the winner of Group C (likely Sweden) Friday at 2:15 PM EST. Italy has some time off now, they won't play until Saturday.
UPDATE 2: Europe 2, North America 0; Finland sends USA to relegation round, Swiss tops Canada
Finland 3, USA 2: Sami Kapanen scored the winner with just over 2 minutes remaining, and despite a frantic finish by the Americans that saw T.J. Oshie score with 17 seconds to play, the Finns held on and finish first in Group D. The result sends the Americans to the relegation round, an embarassing outcome for a program that recently produced an Olympic silver medal. The Americans most recently were in the relegation round in 2003, when they finished 13th.
Switzerland 4, Canada 1: Steven Stamkos was knocked out on a headshot in the first period, and the Swiss captialized early and often on Canadian goalie Chris Mason. Early in the 2nd, it was 3-1 Swiss and by then the Swiss employed their renowned lead protection defence, capitalizing on Canadian turnovers and finishing their checks. Switzerland carries six points over to the qualification round as the first place team from Group B, while Canada settles for three points in the prelims and second place overall.