RIGA, Latvia (AP) — Kevin Labanc and Conor Garland scored two goals apiece and the United States won its sixth straight game with a 4-2 victory over Italy in its final preliminary game at the world hockey championship on Tuesday.
With the victory, the U.S. clinched first in Group B and will play Slovakia in the single-elimination quarterfinals, which start Thursday.
“Seventeen days ago, we came together some of us not knowing each other, and to now be sitting here in first place, we’re a proud group,” coach Jack Capuano said.
Jake Oettinger made nine saves in winning for the third time in the tournament. Brian Boyle took over as captain with Justin Abdelkader sidelined with an injury.
Italy lost all seven games in the tournament. Italian goaltender Davide Fadani made 39 saves.
Finland, Germany and Canada also advanced in Group B. Russia, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia advanced to the quarterfinals in Group A.
The Canadians had to sweat out the final hours of the preliminary round after dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to Finland earlier Tuesday. They moved on after Germany edged host Latvia 2-1.
Canada, which had never missed the playoffs at the world championship or Olympics, will face Group A winner Russia in the quarterfinals. The other quarterfinals on Thursday will have Finland face the Czechs and Switzerland taking on Germany.
The semifinals will be played on Saturday and gold and bronze medal games on Sunday.
Canada was within four minutes of advancing outright to the quarterfinals, but Arttu Ruotsalainen scored his second goal of the game to force extra time.
Ruotsalainen also had the winner in the shootout. Finnish goaltender Jussi Olkinuora had 32 saves in regulation and two more in the shootout, stopping Connor Brown on the final attempt.
Brandon Pirri and Maxime Comtois scored for Canada. Darcy Kuemper had 29 saves.
All Canada needed to reach the quarterfinals after that was to have either Germany or Latvia win in regulation.
The Germans got goals from John Peterka and Marcel Noebels in the opening 6:40 and 23 saves from Mathias Niederberger in prevailing. Rodrigo Abols scored for Latvia.
Russia captured Group A with a 6-0 win over Belarus. Nikita Nesterov ignited and capped a five-goal first period with tallies.
Christoph Bertschy scored twice in a four-goal second-period outburst that carried Switzerland to a 6-3 win over Great Britain. Tristan Scherwey had three assists for the Swiss.
Filip Zadina, Michael Spacek, Libor Sulak, Matej Stransky, and Libor Hajek each had a goal and an assist as the Czech beat Slovakia 7-3 to secure third place.
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