May 13, 2006

O’Sullivan rescues U.S. against Latvia

By Steve Keating

RIGA (Reuters) - Patrick O'Sullivan arrived just in time to
score the game-winning goal as the U.S. battled to a 4-2
victory over Latvia on Saturday, taking the air out of the ice
hockey world championship party.

The U.S. moves into fourth place in the Group E standings
securing a quarter-final appearance, while the Latvians world
championship run will come to an end in the second round
bringing an early finish to the party in this hockey-mad Baltic

At Skonto Arena, Mikhail Grabovsky had a hat-trick as
Belarus kept their hopes of advancing alive with a 9-1 win over

Belarus remain fourth in Group F standings with four points
from four games.

Also scoring for Belarus in the rout were Dmitry Dudik,
with two goals, Viktor Kostyuchenok, Oleg Antonenko, Andrei
Skabelka and Vladimir Kopat. Yuri Gunko had the lone Ukraine

After being shown the yellow card for their unruly display
during an 11-0 thrashing by Canada, Latvian supporters were on
their best behavior.

Championship spokesperson Janis Stepitis confirmed security
had been increased inside Riga Arena to ensure there would be
no repeat of Thursday's ugly scenes when fans littered the ice
with debris, twice halting action and forcing players to the
locker rooms.

The sellout crowd, that included Latvian President Vaira
Vike-Frieberga wearing her hockey sweater, greeted the team
with a standing ovation and focused their energy on cheering as
the contest unfolded without incident.

With the score tied 2-2, O'Sullivan, who had stepped off a
plane from the U.S. eight hours earlier, came to the rescue
when he one-timed a feed from Mark Cullen from the right
faceoff circle past Sergejs Naumovs silencing the crowd.

Latvia gave their fans plenty of reason to cheer,
rebounding from their embarrassing loss to Canada with a
gritty, energetic effort but despite the urging of a seething
sea of maroon-clad supporters could not pull off the upset.

"It was a big win for us the atmosphere was crazy,"
O'Sullivan said. "It's hard to play hockey when you can't hear
anything you don't know what's going on.

"That's the loudest crowed I've ever seen, it's something
we don't get in North America.

"To get an important goal in my first game after a really
tough day of travel, I'm really happy I could help the boys

"I've been here eight hours, it's been a tough day," he

Ryan Malone, Ryan Suter and Los Angeles Kings Dustin Brown,
who had a hat-trick against Norway in the tournament opener,
also scored for the U.S. while Lauris Darzins and Aleksandrs
Semjonovs answered for Latvia.

"We had some fight but it wasn't enough for the win," said
Latvian coach Pjotrs Vorobjovs.