Ailing coach's strategy, spirit lifts U.S. over Sweden


PITTSBURGH -- Team USA, relying on strategy drawn up hours before by seriously ill coach Bob Johnson, got its first two goals from Jeremy Roenick within a span of 2 minutes, 8 seconds in the first period and defeated world champion Sweden, 6-3, in the Canada Cup yesterday.

The U.S. team built a 5-0 lead midway through the second period, then survived three third-period goals by Sweden, two within 16 seconds by Kjell Samuelsson and Charles Berglund.

Just a day after undergoing emergency surgery to remove a life-threatening brain tumor, Johnson designed the USA's lineup and strategy to combat world champion Sweden's physical forechecking.

"He drew up all the plans," USA co-general manager Craig Patrick said of Johnson, who was unable to speak.

The strategy couldn't have worked better as the inspired U.S. team constantly outmuscled the Swedes in their offensive zone and relied on playoff-caliber goaltending by Mike Richter, who stopped Sweden's first 21 shots.

Playing before a subdued crowd of 13,676 obviously affected by Johnson's absence, Team USA took a 3-0 lead and added second-period goals by NHL goal-scoring champion Brett Hull of the St. Louis Blues and Chris Chelios of the Montreal Canadiens.

"The whole day, we were real quiet. We knew what was going on, and nothing needed to be said," said Hull, who left the game in the second period with a strained knee ligament and did not return. "It's so unfortunate. Coach Johnson's such an awesome guy. I wouldn't have expected anything less than what he did today. He's quite a man."

K? Today the U.S. team will play Canada in Hamilton, Ontario.

Finland 2, Canada 2

TORONTO -- Canada's lack of a finishing scoring punch and Janne Ojanen's second goal of the game combined to give Finland a surprising tie in the opener for both teams.

Luc Robitaille and Brendan Shanahan scored for Canada.

Finnish goaltender Markus Ketterer was superb all night, including a big save when he snared shot by Wayne Gretzky that was headed for a top corner of his net with three minutes remaining to preserve the tie. Canada outshot Finland, 44-30.

Czechoslovakia 5, S. Union 2

SASKATOON, Saskatchewan -- Goaltender Dominik Hasek stopped 37 shots, as Czechoslovakia took a 5-0 lead and held off the Soviet Union.

It was the first time Czechoslovakia had beaten its archrival in a Canada Cup game since 1976.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad