Likewise, the only thing thrown against Germany last week was the first Olympic shutout by an American goalie since 1964. Here was the 5'10", 170-pound LeBlanc, behind a mask that can only be called Knievelesque, stopping 46 shots—20 in the first period alone—and seeming to hit his knees on all of them, as though in prayer. In fact, he likely was in prayer for much of the third period, when he was protecting a 1-0 lead, the U.S. was being outshot 15-6, the crowd was chanting his first name, and he was making saves that can only be called...Knievelesque.
Then, with 8:02 remaining, Ted Donato finally got the U.S. a second goal, and LeBlanc remained razor-sharp for the rest of the period—as befits a man nicknamed Razor who shaved his mustache for luck on the eve of the Olympics. The story line could be summarized in three sentences. "Raymond held us in there so we got out of the first period nothing-nothing," said U.S. coach Dave Peterson. "We played the second pretty well. In the third Raymond stole two or three shots that were ticketed for the goal."
As the American players awaited their game two days later against a strong Finnish team, they were hoping that their miniroll would snowball. "Remember, many of these players are little kids throwing snowballs at each other," said Mike Eruzione, captain of the—you knew this was coming, didn't you?—U.S. team that won the gold in Lake Placid a dozen years ago. "This is a lark for them. They're too young to understand what's going on."
Indeed, some of the U.S. players idled away off-day time on a footbridge that crosses a public ski slope running through the athletes' village in La Tania, shouting "Bonjour!" down to unsuspecting skiers before riddling them with snowball fire. Others ascended the slope themselves, tugging absurdly tiny sleds behind them.
But even at this elevation, the breathing wasn't heavy enough for some. Hours before facing the U.S. last Thursday, a fourth-line Finnish forward was beefing about the airtight athletes' village, where all the hockey teams were staying. "We'd like to see more girls," said Keijo Sailynoja. "We cannot even use the condoms that are provided."
Pity. Still, the afternoon game would go on as scheduled, the U.S. versus the Finns, a team stocked with such gristled NHL veterans as Mikko Makela and Petri Skriko. American forward Scott Young, a holdover from the '88 Olympic team who played last season with the Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins, opened the scoring with 1:16 to go in the first period. The Finns, however, answered with a spectacular shorthanded goal by Makela.
Feeling violated, LeBlanc slung the puck from his goal in disgust, his 110-minute, 57-second scoreless streak, dating back to the second period of the opener against Italy, having ended. The goal was all that would stand between him and three consecutive doughnuts. Sweeney, defenseman Scan Hill and Young, again, added goals, and the Americans went on to win handily, 4-1. "They played a hell of a game," Makela said afterward. "They played their own game—gave 100 percent in the defensive zone, 100 percent in the offensive zone. They're a good team, there's no doubt about that."
The Mikk-meister was asked if, before the Games, he had ever heard of Ray LeBlanc. "No," he responded, and then went on to add that "anyone can score goals at this level," thus suggesting that he still didn't know that Ray LeBlanc was a goalie.
"May I ask which one you are?" the woman who moderates the hockey press conferences asked LeBlanc after last Thursday's game.
"I'm Ray LeBlanc, goalie," replied Ray LeBlanc, goalie. LeBlanc then deftly handled the increasingly intense media barrage as though he were taking slap shots with the glove hand.