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Thursday, December 30, 2004
Team USA finishes third in Group A

Associated Press

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.