U.S. hockey ends pool play with loss to Russia

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

TURIN, Italy -- After managing only two goals in two consecutive losses, the U.S. men's hockey team broke out with three power-play tallies on Tuesday, yet still fell 5-4 to Russia in an Olympic game that mattered only in the confidence department.

The Americans (1-3-1), the fourth-place team in Group B, were already locked into a quarterfinal matchup today with Group A-winning Finland (5-0). As the No. 2 team in Group B, the Russians (4-1) will face Canada (3-2) in the quarterfinals.

After scoring only nine goals in four games, the U.S. found its offense just as coach Peter Laviolette said his team would. This time, though, the Americans lacked the defense and goaltending they needed.

Brian Rolston, Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez all scored man-advantage goals but the U.S. allowed as many goals to Russia as it did in the three previous games of the tournament.

With the Americans scheduled to play again today in the medal round, goalie Rick DiPietro got the night off; Robert Esche started in his place.

* Canada, which had lost back-to-back shutouts, got three first-period goals against the Czech Republic, then held on for a 3-2 win. The Czechs (2-3), last year's world champions, finished a disappointing fourth in Group A and are to play Group B winner Slovakia (5-0) in the quarterfinals.

* Finland remained undefeated in Olympic play with a 2-0 victory over Germany (0-3-2) in which they rested first-string goaltender Antero Niittymaki and avoided injury. Niko Kapanen and Saku Koivu scored for Finland, who beat Canada, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Italy and the Germans by a combined score of 19-2 in preliminary play.

* Also, Switzerland's Ivo Ruthemann scored at 16:38 of the third period to pull out a 3-3 tie with host Italy (0-3-2). The Swiss (2-1-2) finished with six points in Group A and will face Sweden (3-2), whose coach caused a stir when he said his team might be better off losing to Slovakia and matching up with Switzerland in the quarterfinals.

Switzerland earned its quarterfinals berth with surprise wins over the Czechs and Canada, but is still considered weaker than either of those teams.

-- AP

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