U.S.A. holds off Russia

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- It wasn't the start Al Montoya was looking for, but the end result was all that really mattered.

USA 5 Russia 4

Playing on home ice in the first game since winning their first World Junior Hockey Championship gold, the United States survived a suspect first period to earn a 5-4 victory over Russia last night before a boisterous crowd of 9,274 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Montoya, the University of Michigan keeper who backstopped the U.S. to gold last year, gave up three goals on four shots in the opening period but regrouped over the final 40 minutes to lead his team to victory.

"This is why I'm on this team, to make a difference," said Montoya, who finished with 30 saves. "I got into the right mindset (after the first period), I got out there and did it. We're the underdogs in this tournament and we love it."

It was an exciting, wide open brand of hockey on display as the first period included six goals -- three in a span of 40 seconds during the final two minutes of play.

UND Fighting Sioux forward Drew Stafford converted a pass from Patrick O'Sullivan to get the Americans on the board at 4:22.

Chris Bourque doubled the lead one minute and 23 seconds later when he batted a rebound out of the air and kept his stick below the crossbar.

Yakov Rylov replied for Russia at 7:25 and Sergei Shirokov knotted the contest on a penalty shot at 18:01.

Dan Fritsche scored his first of the contest 18 seconds later, but Alexander Ovechkin, the first overall pick of the 2004 NHL entry draft, made it 3-3 at 18:41 to send the teams to the dressing room deadlocked.

Robbie Schremp put the U.S. back on top with a power play goal at 3:15 of the second, sneaking his shot through the legs of Russian goalie Anton Khudobin.

Dimitri Pestunov converted a cross-ice pass from Ovechkin at 7:17 to tie it once again, but Fritsche scored while short-handed at 8:40 to put the Americans back on top for good.

"The game was absolutely delightful for the fans," Russian head coach Valery Bragin said through an interpreter.

"Al shut the door for us and came up with a big third period," added Fritsche.

The U.S. sees its next action tomorrow night at 7:08 p.m. against Switzerland, while Russia faces the Czech Republic tomorrow night in Thief River Falls, Minn.


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