February 15, 2006

Leopold gives US tie with Latvia

By Steve Keating

TURIN (Reuters) - Jordan Leopold's third period goal
allowed the United States to escape with 3-3 tie against
unfancied Latvia in their Olympic men's ice hockey tournament
opener on Wednesday.

With a roster of players plucked mostly from European
leagues and anchored by former NHL goalie Arturs Irbe, Latvia
was given little chance against the 2002 Salt Lake City silver

But the tiny Baltic nation gave the U.S. all they could
handle and more with some energetic play and vintage netminding
from Irbe, who faced a 42-shot barrage.

The Americans got the contest off to a quick start taking a
2-0 lead midway through the opening period on goals from New
Jersey Devils right wing Brian Gionta and Los Angeles Kings
center Craig Conroy.

Latvia, however, would not be fazed as Aleksandrs Nizivijs
scored to slice the lead in half before the end of the period.

With President Vaira Vike-Freiberga urging them on, Latvia
would take a 3-2 lead in the second period when Atvars
Tribuncovs and Herberts Vasiljevs scored goals 40 seconds

The Americans were quickly on the attack in the third
period. Leopold, a defenceman with the Calgary Flames, tied the
game when Irbe could not control his floater from just inside
the blue line.