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by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
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 annual International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship here 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, Minn./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. will play its second game of the preliminary round Monday (April 27) at 10:15 a.m. EDT against Austria.

NOTES: Team USA won its opening game in the World Championship for the fifth straight year. The U.S. is 9-1-1 in its last 11 tournament-opening games … Robert Esche won his eighth career game in World Championship play. He has a 1.87 goals against average and a .938 save percentage in 13 career games played at the World Championship …. Team USA will practice tomorrow (April 26) from 9:45 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. local time at the PostFinance Arena in Bern … Jack Johnson was named the U.S. Player of the Game ... The IIHF Men's World Championship includes 16 nations, initially divided into four, four-team pools. In the preliminary round, each team plays the other three teams in its pool. The top three teams in each pool advance to the qualification round. The qualification round consists of two groups of six teams each. A team advancing to the qualification round plays three additional games against the teams it has not yet faced that are part of its new pool. The top four teams in each of the two pools from the qualification round advance to the single-elimination quarterfinal round, with the winners playing in the semifinals. Two two semifinal winners play for the gold medal while the losers play for the bronze medal ... Universal Sports will provide both live streaming and television coverage of the 2009 IIHF Men's World Championship beginning with the quarterfinal round ... Click here for the Team USA roster ... Click here to download the Team USA media guide ... The 2009 U.S. Men’s National Team is under the direction of Brian Burke, general manager; David Poile, associate general manager; and Jim Johannson, assistant executive director for hockey operations at USA Hockey. The U.S. Men's National Advisory Group, which includes Burke, Paul Holmgren (Philadelphia), Johannson, Dean Lombardi (L.A. Kings), Ray Shero (Pittsburgh) and Don Waddell (Atlanta), is charged with leading the selection of players for the U.S. Men's National Team. Tony Rossi, vice president of USA Hockey and its international council chair, oversees all aspects of international competition for USA Hockey … Ron Wilson, head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, is the head coach of the 2009 U.S. Men’s National Team and the 2010 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team. Scott Gordon, head coach of the New York Islanders, and Joe Sacco, head coach of the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League, are the assistant coaches for the 2009 U.S. Men's National Team.


Scoring By Period

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 by Period
USA 12-17-9-38
LAT 7- 4-9-20


USA, Esche 60:00, 18-of-20
LAT, Masalskis 60:00, 34-of-38

Power Play: USA 4-8; LAT 4-8
Penalties: USA 0-4; LAT 1-4
Referees: Ole Hansen (NOR), Danny Kurmann (SUI);
Linesmen: Tobias Wehrli (SUI), Daniel Wirth (SUI)

Attendance: 7,840

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