BERNE – With a 1-0 win over Germany in Sunday's relegation action, Austria set up a winner-takes-all showdown with Denmark on Monday for first place in Group G.
It was the first time in 75 years that Austria beat Germany in a World Championship game. The Austrians beat their neighbours last time in the 1934 World Championship in Milan, Italy, 2-1.
There's only one spot up for grabs this year to stay in the top 16 nations, because Germany, as the 2010 Worlds host, can't be relegated regardless of where it finishes.
The Germans will finish either third or fourth in the Relegation Round, depending on the result of their last game against Hungary on Monday. Hungary, which lost to Denmark on Sunday, will go down to Division I, since it cannot finish first in the Relegation Round.
Austria was last relegated to Division I in Moscow 2007, and is aiming to avoid the same fate this year.
"We played a great defensive game, managed to score the goal that was needed and won," said Austria's Oliver Setzinger. "It was an important win."
Thomas Koch scored the winner midway through the second period. Austrian netminder Bernd Brückler earned the shutout as Germany outshot Austria 38-26.
"It was a close game as always against Germany," said Austrian coach Lars Bergström. "It was important to get the lead, which forced them to open up their game and try to create scoring chances. Our defense, including the box play, was great, as was our goaltender."
The teams struggled through a tentative, infraction-laden first period with few quality shots in front of the crowd of 3,828 at PostFinance Arena. The Austrians looked like they were playing not to lose, while the Germans didn't exactly go for broke despite having nothing to lose. The best first-period chance came when German goalie Dimitri Pätzold foiled Austrian forward Roland Kaspitz on the doorstep in the final minute.
Brückler showed good form early in the middle frame, coming out to stop a hard Christopher Schmidt blast from the center point.
The red-and-white squad scored the only goal of the game at 7:41 of the second when Koch took a nifty behind-the-back pass from Thomas Vanek on the rush and fired it past Pätzold's glove. Koch, a shifty 25-year-old winger who plays for Salzburg in the Austrian League, has emerged as a difference-maker in this round, as he also picked up a hat trick and an assist in the 6-0 win over Hungary.
The Koch goal seemingly woke the teams up, and the tempo increased. Seconds later, Germany's Michael Hackert and Michael Wolf failed to click on a glorious opportunity in tight on Brückler. However, there was no further scoring in the period.
The door opened for the Austrians to increase their lead when they enjoyed a two-man advantage near the midpoint of the third period. However, despite some crisp puck movement and pressure in the German zone, they couldn't outwit Pätzold.
With about five minutes left, the German netminder made a great left pad save on Matthias Trattnig and then foiled Oliver Setzinger in tight to give his team a chance. But the Germans couldn't solve Brückler down the stretch, despite generating some late scrambles around his crease and pulling Pätzold for the extra attacker.
"These have probably been the most stressful ten days of hockey in my life," said Germany's Travis Mulock. "Especially playing for your country and seeing the fans so disappointed. So is everybody on the team. But we just have to go out there, work hard, and hope that the puck will bounce our way."
Oliver Setzinger was chosen as Austria's Player of the Game, and Sven Butenschön was chosen for Germany.