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Team USA finishes third in Group A

12/31/2004

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Goaltender Vladislav Koutsky made 38
saves to help the Czech Republic to a 3-1 victory over the United
States in the World Junior Hockey Championship on Thursday.

The Czech victory drops the Americans to the No. 3 spot out of
Group A. The United States finished the preliminary round of the
tournament with a 2-2 record.

Sweden defeated Slovakia 3-0 on Thursday and will play the U.S.
in the tournament quarterfinals on Saturday.

The Czechs (3-1) will be the second seed out of Group A. They
will play Finland on Saturday.

"This is the first time I've played in front of a big crowd
like this," Koutsky said through an interpreter. "I think it
helped out a bit [that I faced so many shots]. You know when a
goalie faces a lot of shots it helps him stay in the zone."

"He [Koutsky] definitely played really well," Drew Stafford
said. "We had a lot of opportunities to tie the game in the third
period. We can't dwell on this, we have to keep plugging away."

The Czechs took an early lead on a shot by Rostislav Olesz that
beat U.S. goalie Al Montoya high on the glove side at 12:56 of the
first period.

The Czech Republic capitalized on an errant pass from neutral
ice and turned it into a 2-0 advantage in the second. Lukas Bolf
knocked down a clearing attempt at his own blue line and found
Lukas Kaspar streaking toward the net.

Dan Fritsche cut the deficit to 2-1 when he beat the defense
down the ice along the near boards and beat Czech goaltender
Vladislav Koutsky over the shoulder on the stick side. The Czechs
added an empty net goal in the final minute for the margin of
victory.

In the opener on Thursday, Jeff Carter scored three goals in the
second period to lead Canada to an 8-1 victory over Finland.

Corey Perry added a pair of goals, while Jeff Glass made 19
saves for Canada, 4-0.

The win earns Canada the top seed in Group B and a bye to the
tournament semifinals, which begin Sunday. Finland finishes pool
play at 2-2.

"It's nice to come out undefeated," Carter said. "But we
still have a long way to go."

Canada has outscored its four opponents 32-5 and allowed just
one goal in its final eight periods of pool play.

"This team is unbelievable," Carter said. "We knew we had
some chemistry coming into the tournament, but it just keeps
getting better and better. We were clicking today."

Five different Canadians scored goals on Thursday.

Canada needed just seven seconds of power-play time to score the
game's first goal as Perry knocked in a shot which ricocheted off
the back boards to the front of the net at 4:45 of the first
period.

"Today was a day where we were a very focused hockey club,"
coach Brent Sutter said. "Right from the opening faceoff we were
focused on what we needed to do."

In Thief River Falls, Minn., Russia finished pool play with a
6-1 win over Switzerland. The Russians (3-1) scored a pair of goals
in the final three minutes of the second period and finished first
in Group A.

Despite identical 3-1 records, Russia finished ahead of the
Czech Republic because of its 4-1 win over the Czechs on Monday.

Sweden, Slovakia and Finland all finished 2-2 in Group B, but
only the Swedes and Finns advanced to the quarterfinals because
they scored more goals in games between the tied teams.

Slovakia will play Belarus (1-3) on Sunday in the relegation
round. The Swiss (1-3), who also failed to advance, will play
Germany (0-4) on Saturday.