Ooops, he did it again!

JAN.1 -- Once again Alexander Ovechkin came up big when needed, scoring his second hat-trick of the tournament on New Year's eve to lift Russia to a 7-5 win in a spirited contest versus Switzerland. The game itself was meaningless, as Rafail Ishmatov's side earned its bye to the semis on Sunday, while the Swiss were allready eliminated from the medal round.

Moscow Dynamo gem raised to the occasion following quite outings against Slovakia and Belarus.  Ovechkin completed his treble midway trough the final period after Switzerland overcame two goals deficit to draw Russians at five apiece.

Russia and the Swiss have developed quite a rivalry at the junior level in recent years. Swiss U-18 and U-20 clubs regularly gave Russians a run for their money, especially at the U-18 events, where the central European country upset a few times teams coached by Vladimir Plyuschev and Ravil Iskhakov. Than there were those notorious couple of games at the 2001 WJC in Moscow, where Switzerland went 1-0-1 versus Pyotr Vorobiev's squad and much publicized brawl in the second game involving Alexander Svitov and Ilya Kovalchuk took place. Finally last year's contest included another skirmish featuring Svitov. Russia won 4-0, but Tampa Bay draftee had to face a two-game suspension (so did the head coach Plyuschev) for beating the heck out of Thomas Nussly.

Russia was in control for much of the game on Tuesday, but netminder Andrei Medvedev along with a few members of Russian defense decided to have a night off. Medvedev let in five goals on just 27 shots. Nevertheless Rafail Ishmatov's squad seemed to play "catch me if you can" game with the Swiss, as every time Jacob Kollicker's side was closing on their lead or tying the game Russians were quick to restore the status quo.

Russian power-play finally came alive with goals by Kirill Koltsov and Igor Grigorenko in six opportunities. Grigorenko had two goals on the night, so did Switzerland's Patrick Bartschi and Caryl Neunschwander. Timofei Shishkanov for Russia and Gregory Christen for the Swiss rounded up the scoring. Yuri Trubachev and Alexander Polushin had assists on all of Ovechkin's goals.

RHI three stars:
1. Ovechkin
2. Grigorenko
3. Bartschi

Russia finished the group action with a perfect 4-0 record.

On Monday, Finish team continued to struggle against the Czechs who outshot them 35 to 19 and managed an equalizer with less than five minutes left to play in regulation... Slovakia ensured Russia's bye to the semis with a convincing 3-0 victory over Switzerland... Sweden got its first win of the tournament trashing Germany 7-2. Alexander Steen led Tre Kronor's offense with two goals... United States left no chances to hopeless Belorussians in an 8-2 win. Barry Tallackson and Zach Parise each scored twice for Lou Vairo's side.

Tuesday night all the eyes were on the game between Canada and Finland.  Erkka Westerslund side kept it close throughout the game thanks to poor outing of Canadian back-up David LeNeveau. Canada continued to impress and as of Tuesday it was obvious that teams coached by  Mark Habscheid and Rafail Ishmatov are in a different league than the rest of the clubs at the tourney.

In other games on New Year's evening USA registered its third straight victory, 3-1, against Slovakia. While Sweden was eliminated from the medal round loosing to the Czech Republic by the same score.

-- Max Dostoevsky

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