QUEBEC CITY/HALIFAX – Saturday night is a big night for the four teams in the Relegation Round. For Slovenia and Italy, it’s now literally do-or-die.
Slovakia beat Slovenia 5-1 in the first game of their best-of-three series, and France edged Italy 3-2 in theirs. If Slovenia loses again or Italy loses again, they will be relegated to Division I, and the earliest they could reappear in the top division would be at the 2010 tournament in Germany, if they top their 2009 Division I groups.
If Slovenia wins on Saturday and ties its series, a third and decisive game will be played in Halifax on Tuesday, May 13 at 19.00 local time. Likewise, if Italy wins on Saturday and ties its series, the third game will take place in Quebec City on May 13 at 20.15 local time. These games will only take place if necessary.
The relegation system in use at the 2008 IIHF World Championship differs from the one used in previous years. From 1999 to 2007, the fourth-place team in each of the four Preliminary Round groups would be sent to the Relegation Round, and those four teams would play a round-robin tournament with three games apiece. The two bottom finishers were relegated.
Exceptions to this system would have included the Far East Qualifier (historically, Japan), which from 1998 until 2004 was guaranteed a spot in the top division to encourage the growth of hockey in Asia, as well as any nations that were slated to host the tournament the next year, since the host country always gets a spot.