U.S. Beats Latvia

     This release from USA Hockey on America’s 4-2 win over Latvia to open the World Championships on Saturday in Switzerland:

BERN, Switzerland – Jack Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind./L.A. Kings/University of Michigan) scored twice to help the U.S. Men’s National Team earn a hard fought 4-2 victory over Latvia in the opening game for both teams at the 73rd World Championship on Saturday.

Latvia struck first with a power-play goal when Herberts Vasiljevs beat Robert Esche (Utica, N.Y.) from alone in front at 4:40. Team USA evened the game at 11:15 as an innocent-looking shot from the right point off the stick of Johnson made it to the back of the net through traffic in front. John-Michael Lies (Indianapolis, Ind./Colorado Avalanche/Michigan State University) and Kyle Okposo (St. Paul/N.Y. Islanders/University of Minnesota) drew assists on the play.

Latvia took a 2-1 lead at 6:39 of the second thanks to Martins Karsums converting Girts Ankipans’ feed from behind the net. The U.S. evened the game when Drew Stafford (Milwaukee, Wis./Buffalo Sabres/University of North Dakota) scored from a near impossible angle in the right corner and just above the goalline at 11:13. Johnson gave the U.S. its first lead of the game at 15:31 when he spun in the corner, went down the goalline and cut in front to beat Edgars Masalskis to the far side.

Patrick O’Sullivan (Winston-Salem, N.C./Edmonton Oilers) finished the scoring when he put home a rebound of Ron Hainsey’s (Bolton, Conn./Atlanta Thrashers/University of Massachusetts-Lowell) shot from the center point 6:03 into the third period.

Esche made 18 saves in picking up the victory, while Masalskis had 34 stops in the loss.

The U.S. plays its second game of the preliminary round Monday at 9:15 a.m. CDT against Austria.

USA 1 – 2 – 1 — 4
LAT 1 – 1 – 0 — 2

 First Period – Scoring: 1, LAT, Vasiljevs (Nizivijs, Cipulis), 4:40 (pp); 2, USA, Johnson (Liles, Okposo), 11:15. Penalties: USA, Johnson (interference), 4:31; LAT, Berzins (hooking), 5:58; USA, Stempniak (holding), 19:07.

Second Period – Scoring: 3, LAT, Karsums (Ankipans, Sprukts), 6:39; 4, USA, Stafford (unassisted), 11:13; 5, USA, Johnson (unassisted), 15:31. Penalties: LAT, Vasiljevs (hooking), 1:07; USA, Stuart (slashing), 4:32; LAT, Cipulis (holding), 19:35.

Third Period – Scoring: 6, USA, O’Sullivan (Hainsey, Brown), 6:03. Penalties: USA, O’Sullivan (interference), 6:18; LAT, Vasiljevs (tripping), 7:07.

Shots on Goal
USA 12 17 9 38
LAT 7 4 9 20

Goaltenders (SH/SV) 1 2 3 Total
USA, Esche 60:00 7-6 4-3 9-9 20-18
LAT, Masalskis 60:00 12-11 17-15 9-8 38-34
Penalties: USA 4-8; LAT 4-8
Power Plays: USA 0-4; LAT 1-4
Officials: Referees: Ole Hansen (NOR), Danny Kurmann (SUI); Linesmen: Tobias Wehrli (SUI), Daniel Wirth (SUI)
Attendance: 7,840