Gangneung, South Korea: Two-time defending champion Canada as well as unbeaten sides Sweden and Czech Republic advanced to the Olympic men's ice hockey quarter-finals with impressive victories on Sunday.
Sweden, which took 2014 silver at Sochi, defeated Finland 3-1. The Czech Republic downed Switzerland 4-1 and the Canadians blanked South Korea 4-0 to book a last-eight date.
"It's a big win," Sweden's Joel Lundqvist said. "We played really well. We were just battling out there."
Together with the Olympic Athletes from Russia, seeking the first Olympic gold for Russian talent since 1992, they will enjoy a break until Wednesday's tension-packed knockout quarter-finals.
"For sure it's one of the scariest games of the Olympics," Czech veteran Martin Erat said. "You work to get there and if you don't win, you don't get anything and you go home."
The United States and Finland could be ousted before the quarter-finals. They are among eight teams who face knockout matches Tuesday to decide the other four spots in the quarter-finals.
"Now it gets real," Czech assistant coach Jaroslav Modry said.
The Americans will face Slovakia, whom they edged 2-1 in group play thanks to two goals from Harvard University star Ryan Donato. The winner meets the Czechs in the quarter-finals.
Canada's quarter-final foe will be the Finland-South Korea winner.
"Now it's game time. We're ready and we feel confident," Finland's Sami Lepisto said. "We just have to clear in front of our net. We have to be stronger."
Sweden awaits either Germany or Switzerland.
"We have a very important game coming up for sure," Lundqvist said. "We're happy so far but if we lose the quarter-final it will be so disappointing."
The Olympic Athletes from Russia will have three days off before meeting the winner between Norway and Slovenia.
"It's very important because whoever you play against, you are wasting strength and energy," said Russian star Ilya Kovalchuk. "It's good we'll get another day off."
'The big games come now'
Goals from Christian Thomas, Eric O'Dell, Maxim Lapierre and Gilbert Brule lifted the Canadians over the hosts in a must-win game to avoid the extra qualifying round tension.
Michal Repik scored two goals for the Czechs, seeking their first Olympic men's hockey title since 1998.
Repik's power-play goal opened the scoring 7:09 into the first period but Thomas Rufenacht answered for the Swiss 7:38 later.
Dominik Kubalik's goal 3:02 into the third period lifted the Czechs back on top. Repik and Roman Cervenka added empty-net goals in the dying seconds after the Swiss pulled goaltender Jonas Hiller for an extra attacker.
Patrik Zackrisson broke a 1-1 deadlock with 11:07 remaining in the third period to lift Sweden to victory, Oscar Maller adding an empty-net tally five seconds from the end to seal Finland's fate.
"We battled but we could not capitalise on our power play," Lepisto said. "The big games come now and we have to be able to score."
Updated Date: Feb 19, 2018 11:38 AM