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Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Updated: December 30, 1:15 PM ET
Americans' 8-game tourney win streak ends

Associated Press

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The United States was unable to rally from a four-goal deficit and lost 5-3 to Belarus in pool play of the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Hockey Championship on Wednesday night, the Americans' first loss in the tournament in two years.

The defending champion U.S. team had won eight straight games in the tournament, with its last loss coming against Finland in the bronze medal game two years ago.

"I thought they played a great game," U.S. coach Scott Sandelin said of Belarus. "They took advantage of our mistakes. I thought we had a lot of turnovers tonight."

Belarus had lost its last three games and had been outscored 19-4.

"It's always important to have a victory against a strong opponent like the U.S.," Belarus coach Mikhail Zakharov said. "It was a very good game."

In other games on Wednesday, the Czech Republic beat Switzerland 5-2, Finland rallied to defeat Sweden 5-4 and Slovakia defeated Germany 5-0.

After the Americans gave up eight goals in their first two games, Sandelin started Cory Schneider in goal instead of Al Montoya, who played all six games in the event a year ago.

But the U.S. team was sloppy in its own end and Belarus scored on three of its first seven shots. Montoya replaced Schneider after Alexei Savin's goal gave Belarus a 3-1 lead early in the second period.

Montoya allowed a goal on the first shot he faced, when Siarhei Kukushkin scored on a long slap shot. Andrei Kastsitsyn's goal made it 5-1 at 14:16 of the second period.

"Right now, they're fighting it a little bit," Sandelin said of his goalies.

Belarus goalie Stepan Goryachevskikh made 39 saves, including 20 in the final period.

"We played a good third period but it's tough to play catch-up hockey," Sandelin said.

Drew Stafford pulled the United States within 5-2 on a power-play goal with less than a minute remaining in the second period. Mike Brown made it 5-3 at 2:11 of the third.

The Americans had a two-man advantage in the last two minutes, pulling their goalie for an extra attacker while on the power play. The U.S. team outshot Belarus 21-8 in the final period.

The loss dropped the United States to 2-1 in the group that includes Russia (2-1), the Czech Republic (2-1), Switzerland (1-2) and Belarus (1-3). The Americans finish pool play against the Czechs on Thursday.

Rotislav Olesz had a goal and two assists to lead the Czech Republic over Switzerland. Petr Vrana and Marek Kvapil added two points each for the Czechs.

The Czech Republic scored twice in the second period. Michael Frolik scored at 14:09 and Vrana made it 3-1 at 16:41.

Stefan Hurlimann scored twice for Switzerland.

Finland rallied from a three-goal deficit in the third period to surprise Sweden. Lauri Tukonen scored the game-winner with about five minutes remaining.

Lauri Korpikoski and Jesse Joensuu scored power-play goals in a 10-second span.

The tying and winning goals came within 37 seconds. Iivo Hokkanen scored at 14:10 to make it 4-all and Tukonen followed at 14:47 to cap the comeback.

Stefan Ruzicka scored the first three goals, all in the first period, to help Slovakia beat Germany.

Slovakia improved to 2-1 in the group that includes Canada (3-0), Finland (2-1), Sweden (1-2) and Germany (0-3).