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USA falls to RPI in shootout ; Falls' Clendening finishes plus-2

It was only an exhibition game, but Team USA's title defense of its World Junior Hockey Championship got off to a sour start Sunday in Troy.

The Americans lost to national No. 14 RPI, 4-3, in a shootout at Houston Field House. Marty O'Grady scored for the Engineers in the 12th round of the shootout, and USA's answer fell short as former RPI player Jerry D'Amigo had his shot ring off the right post.

USA lost despite an overwhelming 37-19 advantage in shots and holding a one-goal lead late. With only 2:43 to go, RPI freshman Bo Dolan ripped a slap shot from the point to force overtime.

Niagara Falls native Adam Clendening saw plenty of ice time in defeat, registering a plus-2. Also for USA, Chris Brown scored two goals and Brock Nelson had two assists. Emerson Etem also scored for the U.S.

For RPI, Allen York finished with 34 saves to keep his team in it.

This juniors-college matchup isn't something new. USA and RPI met two years ago in a similar game that the U.S. won, 5-4.

The U.S. plays two more exhibition games -- one in Rochester against the Czech Republic on Tuesday (7 p.m.) and one in Jamestown against Norway on Thursday (7:30 p.m.) -- before opening the World Championships against Finland at 8 p.m. next Sunday in HSBC Arena.

The 29-man preseason roster will be cut down to a final 22-man roster Wednesday.

Team USA is looking to defend its title, which it won by defeating Canada, 6-5, in overtime of last year's gold-medal game in Saskatoon, Sask. The United States also won it all in 2004.

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Team Canada will play its first tune-up game tonight when it faces last year's tournament darling, Switzerland, at 7 at General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ont. The Swiss finished fourth, scoring an overtime win over Russia in the medal round before having their run ended in the bronze medal game by Sweden.

Ryan Ellis, who helped Windsor win Memorial Cups the past two years, has been named captain for the Canadians. The 2009 first-round pick of the Nashville Predators has helped Canada win gold and silver medals the past two seasons in this event. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound defenseman has amassed 253 points in 195 career games with Windsor.

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Canada faces Sweden at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Air Canada Centre in Toronto in an exhibition game that got a little more interesting after a recent TSN.ca report that Swede center Anton Landers views Team USA as the team to beat in the tournament.

The Americans are the defending champion. Team USA beat Sweden in the semifinals last year. Still, the Canadians view hockey as their game. Members of the team with hopes of securing the Canadians' 16th gold medal in the competition responded rather predictably.

"They don't know what's waiting for them," defenseman Simon Despres told TSN. "I think, we're going to come out strong in the tournament. We'll put on a good, competitive show."

Canada and Sweden are in the same pool during the tournament and face each other at 4 p.m. Dec. 31 at HSBC Arena in a preliminary-round finale that will likely decide which team has an easier path toward reaching the gold-medal game in the playoff round.

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Tickets for the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship may be purchased at 50 percent off the regular price through "Tim Hortons Youth Hockey Days." The games include: Slovakia-Germany on Dec. 27 ($20 lower bowl, $12.50 upper bowl), Norway-Canada on Dec. 29 ($47.50, $35), Germany-USA on Dec. 30 ($40, $30) and the fifth-place game Jan. 4 ($20, $12.50).

For more information, visit www.buffaloworldjuniors.com or call (888) 467-2273. The offer is based on availability.

e-mail: sports@buffnews.com

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