While some were watching another perfunctory Oilers failure on an old rival's ice, I was watching a much different and much more enjoyable game. For the first time all tournament, Canada was in deep caca, as the talented and speedy American juniors staked out a 4-2 lead partway through the third on the strength of two official shorthanded goals, along with a third one that might as well have been, since it came mere seconds after the offending player was released from his temporary prison. Canada was playing as poorly as the Americans were well, failing to support the puck, losing battles, and making the silly plays often associated with a nervous, tense team. When the going got tough, though, Jordan Eberle got going, building on his reputation as a short-tournament clutch player. After tying the game at two in the second on a dandy of a goal, he tipped home the 4-3 goal that re-energized Canada and finally got them playing with their heads on straight. He was also in the penalty box for Alex Pietrangelo's game-tying short-handed goal, which...probably isn't necessarily something to be celebrated, but if he's not in the box, that sequence of events can't play out, so call it even. (I love what-if scenarios: they break people's brains when they think about them too much.) When Canada needed pressure and chances late to tie then try to win the game, he was driving the net and finding open men damned near every shift. After a swift five-minute OT settled nothing, the game went to a shootout. Eberle opened the shootout with a goal, before the Americans tied it. The two teams traded goals again before Brandon Kozun's five-hole snipe went unanswered, completing the thrilling comeback with a 5-4 shootout win. Great game by a member of your 2010-11 Edmonton Oilers, and a wonderfully competitive game from start to finish, one which the American side unquestionably deserved a fate better from.
Sweden-Finland, on the other hand, was a complete failure of a game. Finland came out flying, swarming the flat Swedes in waves and outshooting the Tre Kronor to the tune of 26-3...but finished the period down 1-0 on an Andre Petersson laser that keeper Jani Ortio probably should've had. I don't know whether Swedish coach Par Marts read his team the riot act or just went into the dressing room, shook his head, and left them to contemplate their failures, but they turned it around and poured it on in the second and third, taking the game in a laugher, 7-1. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson got better as the game went on after scarcely seeing the ice because of all the penalties in the first, and had a beauty of an individual goal early in the third to make it 5-0, waking me up from a minor slumber. Anton Lander, on the other hand, had another rough game, getting burned pretty badly on the lone Finnish marker by Teemu Hartikainen, and taking one of several unnecessary penalties in the first as Sweden hung their goalie out to dry. Hartikainen had a good game, forechecked well, and was a physical force, in addition to posting that goal. Toni Rajala, though, really seemed invisible to me after that first chance ten seconds in, which drew the first Swedish penalty of the afternoon, to the point where he was eventually pulled from the top line. Really disappointed that Finland got nothing done in the first, other than inflating Jacob Markstrom's save percentage: they got a lot of shots, but until the third power-play, about halfway through the first, they didn't look dangerous in the slightest; once Sweden came alive, it was all over. That may be the story of the tournament for Finland, though: a lot of try, but just not enough talent.
Canada moves on to face the winner of Russia-Switzerland on Sunday, while Sweden takes on the winner of USA-Finland. Buckle up, folks: the tournament's finally started.