With a 2-1 overtime win over Germany on Sunday night, Slovakia set up a showdown with the United States on New Year's Eve for third place in Group B. Peter Ceresnak got the winner.
The Germans, with four straight losses, are bound for the Relegation Round.
Germany's Sebastian Uvira was sent off for hooking Slovak forward Martin Reway in the neutral zone 57 seconds into overtime. Ceresnak hammered home the deciding goal with a one-timer from the faceoff circle.
"This was a very hard game," said Slovak scoring leader Marko Dano, who has five points to date. "We tried to score some goals, but their goalie was great. I’m very happy because we scored the overtime goal."
"It was our best game so far," said Germany's Dominik Kahun. "It was a bit unlucky, this penalty in overtime. We can’t take this. We have to stay out of the box."
Bruno Mraz also scored for Slovakia. Tobias Rieder tallied for Germany.
Slovakia’s Adam Nagy won the goaltending duel with Germany’s Marvin Cüpper, but not because Cüpper didn’t try his best. Slovakia outshot Germany 42-18.
"[Cüpper] did a great job," said Uvira. "He saved some great shots from the Slovakian guys. He had some nice kick saves and stuff. I’m proud he played so well. I think we got the point because of him."
If the Slovaks beat the Americans and move on to the quarter-finals, they’ll guarantee themselves at least as good of a finish as they had in 2012 (sixth place).
The Americans, who played in the Relegation Round last year for the first time since 1999, will be desperate to avoid repeating that indignity. Slovakia knows it’ll be facing a motivated opponent.
"We must recover fast and get a good sleep," said Dano. "Tomorrow we’ll try to beat the USA."
Newly promoted for 2013, Germany’s goal is simply to stay in the top division. It won’t be easy. Thus far, coach Ernst Höfner’s squad has been outscored by a whopping 26-4 margin.
"If we keep working hard and getting better, I think we have a good chance to stay in the [top division]," said Uvira. "It’s really important for us to win in the Relegation Round."
It was a carefully played game from the outset, with both teams striving not to make a fatal mistake. In the scoreless first period, there were two Slovak power plays and one for Germany.
At 13:56 of the second period, the Germans finally drew first blood on a 5-on-3 power play. Leon Draisatl sent a pass from the right faceoff circle to Kahun, who put it cross-crease to Rieder for the tap-in.
The German goalie stepped up with his team in the lead. Milan Kolena had a great chance for the equalizer in the slot near the 16-minute mark of the second, but Cüpper flung out his right pad to stop it. With under two minutes left before the siren, Cüpper stoned Andrej Bires in close with a glove grab.
In the third period, Slovakia tied the score at 4:02, as Mraz tracked down a loose puck at the hash marks and whacked it high past Cüpper.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)