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Canadian Press
12/31/2006 3:49:34 PM

LEKSAND, Sweden (CP) - The Americans made it into the medal round at the world junior hockey championships by the skin of their teeth.

Defenceman Jack Johnson scored in overtime as the U.S. pulled out a 3-2 win against Sweden in their last preliminary-round game on Sunday.

A loss would have put the Americans in the relegation round and battling just to remain in the A world championship.

Fredrik Pettersson of the Calgary Hitmen scored for Sweden with 14 seconds left in regulation to tie the game.

But Johnson scored the winner at 3:16 in overtime, with a second left in a power play, to get the U.S. into Tuesday's quarter-finals.

"Thank God," said Johnson. "Our hearts sunk when Sweden scored that goal in the last few seconds, but our team regrouped well in overtime and we didn't quit.

"We were a desperate hockey team, so, yeah, we lived to die another day here."

In other games Sunday, Canada beat Slovakia 3-0, Russia blanked Finland 5-0 and the Czech Republic defeated Switzerland 4-2.

Canada and Russia topped Groups A and B respectively with 4-0 records to gets byes to Wednesday's semifinals.

The Swedes picked up a point for the overtime loss to end up second behind Canada, followed by the U.S. in third. Finland and the Czech Republic finished second and third respectively in Group B.

So Finland and the U.S. meet in one quarter-final with the winner taking on Canada, while Russia awaits the victor between the host Swedes and the Czech Republic.

Swedish defenceman Jonas Ahnelov was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking in overtime, which gave the U.S. the man advantage.

Sweden led 1-0 on Andreas Thuresson's goal, but Pat Kane of the OHL's London Knights tied the game and Ryan Stoa gave the U.S. the lead until Pettersson deadlocked the game.

"After that final buzzer sounded, we just regrouped," said American captain Taylor Chorney. "There was no time to sit there and sulk about anything because if we lost that game we were going home.

"There was no way we were leaving this rink without a win."

The U.S. was considered one of the favourites with a load of NHL drafted players, but the team got off to a terrible start with a 2-1 overtime loss to lightly regarded Germany, which was promoted from the B world championship, followed by a 6-3 loss to Canada.

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