HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - Switzerland held on to shock Olympic champions Sweden 4-2 on Wednesday as the preliminary round of the ice hockey world championships ended with drama on and off the ice.
The win moved the Swiss to the top of Group A with an unblemished record of 3-0. Winless France dropped to the bottom of the standings and into the relegation battle after their 3-1 loss to Belarus.
In Group C, Finland went top of the standings, edging Slovakia 3-2 while Germany capped off a day of turmoil with a stunning 3-2 defeat by Norway.
The Norwegian victory was bad news for Slovakia -- the 2002 world champions -- who finished preliminary round play without a victory. They are rooted to the bottom of the group and join France in the relegation round.
Day Five of the championship was one Germany were glad to see end after dealing with a doping controversy and having a player sent home for being declared ineligible.
Florian Busch escaped punishment when the International Ice Hockey Federation rejected a request by World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) to suspend the forward because of an ongoing doping investigation.
Team mate Jason Holland, however, was not as fortunate.
Canadian-born Holland, who played for Canada at the 1996 junior world championships, was ruled ineligible for the championships having played only three years in his adopted country.
“That was a catastrophe game,” sullen German netminder Robert Muller said after the defeat.
In Quebec City, the Swiss took the lead 48 seconds into the game on a goal from Thierry Paterlini and never trailed.
Andres Ambuhl, Thibaut Monnet and Beat Forster also tallied for the Swiss while Fredrik Warg and Patric Hornqvist answered for Sweden.
”Today is a big day for Swiss hockey,“ Swiss coach Ralph Krueger told reporters. ”Things went the way we wanted.
“I think we were better in front of the nets, just as we wanted to be.”
Teemu Selanne clinched the victory for the Finns early in the second period when he hammered a shot from the top of the face-off circle past Slovakia netminder Peter Budaj for a 3-2 lead.
Niklas Backstrom made the one-goal advantage stand up with shutout goaltending in the final two periods.
The Minnesota Wild netminder was impressive in the third period when the Slovaks launched an-all out assault, out-shooting the Finns 14-0.
The teams each traded a pair of goals in the opening frame with Niko Kapanen and Tuomo Ruutu finding the net for Finland. Robert Petrovicky and Miroslav Kovacik replied for Slovakia.
“It was a good win for us, it was a tight game,” said Finn Ville Peltonen. “We knew they were desperate, it was an important game for them and today we were more ready although we have to improve and be mentally tougher.”
Qualification round play begins on Thursday.
Editing by Martin Petty