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WJHC Days Four and Five: It was closer than that, I swear.

First, an aside.  Remember how the other day, I was talking about how the IIHF needs to grow the game in places like Latvia and Austria in order to avoid future embarrassments like the ones we've seen this week?  I was cleaning the kitchen today and one of those Brian Williams Olympic programs came on TSN HD (alas, no HDTV; uncle's sick), and featured the Chinese women's national curling team, which went from off-the-map to world champions in just a couple of years, thanks in part to coaching from a Canadian.  Now, that's not entirely what I'm talking about -- that would be more like Dave King taking over behind the bench of Team Belarus and thinking they'll be a contender -- but I continue to believe in the idea of bringing in foreign expertise to get the ball rolling.

Now, on with the show.  Specifically, the Taylor Hall show.

Canada 8, Slovakia 2: As the title suggests, this really was a closer game than the score suggests.  At least through two, I thought the play was relatively even, and that Slovakia had quite their share of quality scoring chances.  Heck, there was one two-minute sequence that was the best I've seen so far in this tournament, as both teams traded chances and spectacular hits, including a pair by Peter Hrasko that sent Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall, in turn, to the ice.  Flat out, the Slovak goalies didn't do their jobs, while Kings prospect Martin Jones of Canada did.  A couple of blemishes for Canada in this one, though: injuries continue to mount, as Jordan Caron, Adam Henrique, and Brandon Kozun joined Calvin de Haan among the walking wounded for the red and white, while a lack of discipline, especially from Patrice Cormier (whose needless cross-checking penalty ended the shutout streak and earned him fifteen minutes on the bench) and Luke Adam, gave coach Willie Desjardins fits all evening.

Turning now to Oilers prospects and potential prospects, Jordan Eberle had an okay game: besides getting corked by Hrasko, he had one assist and didn't seem as involved as he was in previous games.  His penalty-killing team also had trouble clearing on a few occasions, creating more chances against keeper Jones than were strictly warranted.  Hall, meanwhile, was full marks for his player of the game honours: three goals, all of them on quality shots, and an assist on Ryan Ellis's first of the tournament.  He was the one creating chances throughout the game, driving the net, setting guys up in front, and taking hits to make plays.  Fantastic game by the youngster.

Sweden 4, Russia 1: What a game by Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson.  His give-and-go with Andre Petersson was wonderful, and the shortie that ultimately stood as the GWG was a perfectly placed shot on Russian goalie Igor Bobkov (the fellow who recently robbed Finland).  His third and final point came from a long-range pass by Oliver Ekman-Larsson, which he tipped to Petersson, who put it in from much further out than was entirely reasonable.  Anton Lander, on the other hand, had no points, took one penalty (interference), and was -1, missing all of Paajarvi's heroics and being on the ice when Nikita Filatov sent up a lob pass that sprung Kirill Petrov for a beauty of a breakaway goal.  Tough day.  Because TSN can't be arsed, the KHL provides some really nice highlights courtesy of Sovietsky Sport.

Finland 10, Austria 1: Remember what I said about Austria putting up a fight earlier?  Apprently not so much at this point, getting outscored 17-2 by the Czechs and Finns en route to a date with relegation.  Picking apart the carnage, looks like Teemu Hartikainen finished with a goal, an assist, a penalty, and an even rating on three shots, while Toni Rajala had a goal and two assists and a +1 on four shots.  Is there any sense in looking for highlights on this one?  I didn't think so.

Coming up tomorrow: the Swedes and Finns finish out the round robin against each other, while Canada faces its toughest -- and some would say only -- test of the tournament to date in the United States.  Final aside: I'm checking the IIHF site for a scoring summary here and seeing that Latvia is leading Switzerland 4-3 after two.  The hell?  (Update: Since I've been editing this post, it's now 5-4 Suisse.  Still baffled.)

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