U.S. gets tied up in ugly game Americans clinch pool but Swede bloodies Brown

February 18, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

MERIBEL, France -- All this? Against Sweden?

There was a puddle of blood on the ice, a player sent to the hospital, a Lady Byng Trophy winner labeled as a goon, a confrontation with a referee under the stands, and an international hand-shaking incident that dredged up all of those Ugly American images that once bedeviled coach Dave Peterson.

Other than that, this was just your typical 3-3 United States-Sweden tie at the Winter Olympics last night.

"I guess the Swedish hockey players didn't respect the Americans," said U.S. defenseman Moe Mantha. "Hopefully, they have changed their minds."

The outcome enabled the United States to clinch the Pool A hockey title and move into tonight's single-elimination, medal-round game against undermanned France (2-3). With a loss, the U.S. team would have faced imposing Czechoslovakia.

But the tie came with a price. U.S. defenseman Greg Brown was sent to a local hospital with a broken nose, a concussion and a 12-stitch gash over his left eye from a check by Mats Naslund, a former winner of the National Hockey League's award for gentlemanly conduct.

Brown will miss tonight's game, and the U.S. team will file a protest to have Naslund barred from the rest of the tournament.

"I thought it was a cheap shot," said U.S. captain Clark Donatelli. "Mats Naslund hasn't hit anyone in the NHL all these years. He got us fired up. Who the hell is he?"

It was just plain strange. The Swedes, reigning world champions known for crisp passes and elegant play, went elbow-to-elbow with the Americans. When Naslund, an eight-year NHL veteran, unloaded on Brown 2:04 into the game, he established a tough, aggressive stance by Sweden.

"There was a lot of stuff going on you had to swallow," Mantha said. "This was for first place. But personally, I've seen more blood on the ice."

Brown was on the ice for five minutes. He left the game, but the puddle of blood that remained in the corner for the opening period served as the symbol of the Swedes' aggressiveness.

Naslund received a game misconduct and 25 minutes in penalties, more time in one game than in any of his NHL seasons.

"I'm not banging my chest and thinking I'm Tarzan," Naslund said. "But what can you do? I can't feel bad about it. I think there were some unlucky circumstances."

U.S. coach Peterson said Naslund "intentionally tried to take Greg Brown out of the game." Peterson was so incensed, afterward, he screamed at referee Seppo Makela, of Finland, in the runway under the stands. Later, at a news conference, Peterson refused to shake hands with Sweden's assistant head coach, Curt Lundmark.

"I think leaders should be able to shake hands," Lundmark said. "It's a very big shame. Why? Why? Why? When a game is going on, that's one thing. After the 60 minutes are played, you forget everything and look ahead."

This game will be difficult to forget. For the Americans, it was in many ways a lost opportunity to establish themselves as the dominant team in the tournament. After taking a 3-0 lead on goals by Donatelli, Tony Donato and Marty McGinnis, the United States gave up three third-period goals, including two on power plays, and a third with 21 seconds remaining when Mikael Johansson's 10-foot shot kicked off the skate of U.S. defenseman Dave Tretowicz.

"It was disappointing to tie," Mantha said. "But nobody believed that we could do this, win our pool. Twenty-three guys took it upon themselves to believe in each other. The big thing is we got the top seed."

The third-period mess ruined goaltender Ray LeBlanc's bid for a third consecutive shutout. But with 45 saves, LeBlanc again showed that he is the goalie of the tournament.

"The guy is making saves that no one can believe," said U.S. forward Jim Johansson.

And the United States is playing better than expected.

"They can win a gold medal here," Lundmark said. "They have very good spirit and very good will. And they have LeBlanc, who is marvelous. He is one of the best goalies in the tournament."

LeBlanc will have to be at his best tonight, though. France may not be the tournament's top team. But playing at home, in a tiny arena with no name, the French could provide a difficult test for the Americans.

"Everyone wants to beat America," Mantha said. "It's going to be crazy."


Just ask the Swedes.

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