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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 22:34 GMT

US clinch top seed

The US, seeking their first Olympic ice hockey gold since 1980, guaranteed themselves top spot in their group as they came from behind to hammer Belarus 8-1.

Belarus took the lead through Dmitry Pankov after just 20 seconds and held their advantage until the second period.

But the home side then stepped up a gear with John Leclair scoring two goals and Brett Hull adding another in the opening eight minutes of the second period.

Final group tables
Group 1
1. US
2. Finland
3. Russia
4. Belarus

Group 2
1. Sweden
2. Czech Republic
3. Canada
4. Germany

Hull scored on a slap shot in the first minute of the period then set up Leclair for two goals in less than five minutes - giving his team-mate five goals in three games.

Mike Modano, reunited with Hull, his former Dallas Stars team-mate, also had two assists as the Americans finished the round-robin stage of the competition unbeaten.

Leading 3-1 after two periods, the US then piled on five goals in the third period - including two each by Scott Young and Bill Guerin.

As group winners the US now get to play the lowest-placed team from the other group - Germany - in the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, Finland claimed second spot in the group with a 3-1 triumph over Russia.

Thursday's quarter-finals
Finland v Canada
Russia v Czech Rep
USA v Germany
Sweden v Belarus

Captain Teemu Selanne scored their first with Mikko Eloranta converting a backhand shot near the end of the second period.

Jiri Lehtinen completed the scoring by poking home a rebound 35 seconds into the third period for a power play goal.

Pavel Bure scored for the Russians who finished a disappointing third in the group.

The Finns will now face Canada in Thursday's quarter-finals after they drew 3-3 with reigning champions the Czech Republic in the other group.


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