One year ago, Patrick O'Sullivan couldn't wait to get home to Mississauga to show his IceDogs teammates his gold medal.
This year he'll having nothing to show but the palms of his hands.
Although the U.S. had eight regulars back from the club that won gold in Finland last winter, it was inconsistent throughout the 2005 world junior championship and was rewarded with a fourth-place finish yesterday after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Czech Republic in the bronze-medal game in Grand Forks, N.D.
"It's a big disappointment," O'Sullivan said. "Winning last year was such a good feeling. I don't want to say we took it for granted a bit, we just came up short. We certainly had our ups and downs and we had to battle. Some games, we were not on with our systems."
The winning goal by Petr Vrana of the Halifax Mooseheads summed up the Americans' tournament.
Vrana was able to deke past returning defenceman Jeff Likens, and though Vrana was bothered by Likens as he skated toward goalie Al Montoya, was able to get a dribbler off.
Montoya, who probably would love to erase this tournament from his memory bank as he was terrible at times, was unable to move fast enough and the puck managed to go between his legs at 2:38 of the extra period.
The Americans were the most penalized team going into action yesterday and there were occasions when the players' minds seemed to wander. Whatever O'Sullivan, who was in his third and final world junior, and the other veterans tried to instill with their new teammates didn't work.
"What can you do?" O'Sullivan, a Minnesota Wild pick, said. "(It) was my 20th game in the world junior, my last hurrah I guess, and to go out like this it is not the best feeling."
The vibe was much more positive about 15 feet away from O'Sullivan, where Vrana, a New Jersey Devils prospect, stood.
The Czechs, who won gold in 2000 and 2001, won their third medal since the Czech Republic and Slovakia began playing as separate countries in 1994. Brampton Battalion defenceman Marty Lojek also played for the Czechs in this event.
"It was sweeter for us because the U.S. was at home," Vrana said. "I was lucky (on the goal). It was a pretty weak shot but it went in."