U.S. clinches second consecutive quarterfinal berth
RIGA, Latvia -- Hours after landing in Europe, Patrick O'Sullivan scored the go-ahead goal and the United States held off Latvia 4-2 to clinch a quarterfinal berth in the world ice hockey championships on Saturday.
O'Sullivan's 11-hour flight from Houston meant he arrived in Riga only three hours before the game, and he said he was relieved to win.
"To get an important goal for the team in my first game, especially after having a really tough day of travel, it feels good to help the boys out," he said.
The Americans, coming off a 4-0 loss to Finland the night before, followed fellow Group E leaders Canada, Finland and the Czech Republic into the quarterfinals. Latvia and Norway were eliminated from contention.
In Group F, Belarus routed Ukraine 9-1 to close in on a spot in the last eight. Belarus was led by Mikhail Grabovsky's hat trick.
Only Russia in Group F has qualified for the quarters, leaving Olympic champion Sweden, Switzerland and Belarus favored to clinch the last berths. Slovakia and Ukraine still had hope.
The United States advanced to the quarterfinals for the second year in a row. It has missed out only twice since 1998, when the 16-team format was started.
O'Sullivan, a late roster addition from the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League, gave the Americans a 3-2 lead less than three minutes into the last period with Latvia shorthanded. From Mark Cullen's setup pass from the right, O'Sullivan fired a one-timer past Latvia goalie Sergejs Naumovs.
Ryan Suter added an insurance goal eight minutes later on another power play.
Craig Anderson went the distance for the Americans in goal, making 22 saves.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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