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LeBlanc blanks Poland; U.S. 4-0

A hot goalie kept the U.S. hockey team on its hot streak and put it within one victory of a perfect record heading into the medal round.

Shut out for more than 34 minutes by patsy Poland, the United States was saved again by Ray LeBlanc and won 3-0 Saturday to remain one of only two unbeaten, untied teams. Canada, which plays in the other group, is also 4-0.

The United States can earn the top seed in its group _ and the right to open the medal round against the fourth-place team from the other pool, probably France _ by beating or tying world champion Sweden (3-0-1) Monday. The teams met Feb.

5 in their final pre-Olympic tuneup, with the U.S. team winning a hotly contested 3-2 game.

The U.S. team, which thrives on intensity, stumbled early against Poland because it was "a little lackadaisical," center Dave Emma said.

"In the first 10 minutes of the game, we weren't playing well at all," he said. "We maybe thought it would be easier."

But without the play of Le-Blanc, the United States would have been behind when Shawn McEachern broke a scoreless tie with 5:13 left in the second period.

LeBlanc made 24 saves for his second shutout and has a save percentage of .969.

Coach Dave Peterson had hoped to play LeBlanc only half the game but didn't use backup Scott Gordon. Peterson felt that the game was too close and that Le-Blanc wasn't being overworked.

In other games Saturday:

Sweden tied Finland 2-2 on Thomas Rundqvist's goal with 4:22 left. Finland (2-1-1) clinched a berth in the quarterfinals. Sweden (3-0-1) already had clinched a spot and kept alive its hopes of winning the group by beating the United States.

Germany beat Italy 5-2 after Ron Fischer broke a 2-2 tie with 10:10 to play. Italy could have advanced with a victory, but now Germany is in the driver's seat for the group's last berth. The Germans (1-3) play Poland on Monday, while Italy (also 1-3) faces Finland.

Walker ninth, optimistic

LA PLAGNE, France _ So how far behind is the U.S. two-man bobsled team? "I'd say a field goal," said Herschel Walker.

Would you believe two touchdowns? It was tough sledding for Walker and Brian Shimer of Naples, when USA I, the top U.S. entry, could do no better than ninth place after the first two heats.

Walker noted that the distance between the sled he pushes and third place is just 0.28 seconds.

"Right now, we are in the hunt, and I love it," he said.

Britain's Mark Tout and Paul Lenox lead Italy's Gunther Huber and Stefano Ticci by 0.03 seconds.

U.S. team leader Jim Hickey said Walker might have stopped pushing too soon on the first run and climbed into the sled behind Shimer without his "power step."

The push was timed in 6.14 seconds, 11th-best in the first run.

Shimer said he and Walker were both nervous on the first push and that his jump into the sled also could have been premature.

Russian wins second gold

LES SAISIES, France _ Lyubov Egorova of the Unified Team won her second gold medal of the Winter Games, skiing to a 24.1-second victory in the women's 10-kilometer freestyle race.

Egorova, from St. Petersburg, Russia, now has won two gold medals and one silver.

The 5-kilometer was the opening event of the new combined pursuit event, in which competitors ski both classic and freestyle. Medals were awarded for the classic portion and for the overall finish.

Bjorn Dahlie won the men's 15-kilometer, the second leg of the men's pursuit, as Norway finished 1-2. The silver went to Vegard Ulvang, who has won two golds.

_ Information from the Los Angeles Times was used in this roundup.

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