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1980 ARCHIVES: U.S. hockey team wins

America’s young team pulls stunning upset

April 6, 2017
By STEPHEN J. ROBERTS - Staff Writer (news@lakeplacidnews.com) , Lake Placid News

(This is the "Miracle on Ice" story the Lake Placid News printed in a special edition dated Sunday, Feb. 24, 1980.)

In one of the greatest moments in United States Olympic history, Captain Mike Eruzione scored on a 30-foot shot exactly midway through the third period to vault the United States Olympic hockey team to a stunning 4-3 underdog triumph Friday night over the gold medal favorite Soviet Union squad.

With the score deadlocked at 3-3, the former Boston University star broke free in the middle of the Soviet zone and picked up a pass from Mark Pavelich. Breaking toward the goal, Eruzione used a Soviet defender to screen substitute goalie Vladimir Myshkin and score with a low shot on the stick side.

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This is the “Miracle on Ice” story the Lake Placid News printed in a special edition dated Sunday, Feb. 24, 1980.

Pandemonium broke loose in the Olympic Ice Center, as the entire U.S. squad emptied the bench to pile on the 25-year-old Winthrop, Mass. native. The now familiar chant of "U.S.A.-U.S.A." filled the 8,500-seat fieldhouse, which was packed to about 11,000.

Wild jubilant bands of fans roamed the Lake Placid streets after the game proclaiming the victory to the world. At Jimmy's 21 on Main Street, the bar crowd stood and spontaneously sang the Star Spangled Banner as the last seconds ticked off the clock.

The win marked the first victory for an American hockey team over the Soviets in 20 years. In Squaw Valley in 1960, a similar scrapping, clawing, underdog U.S. team routed the Russians 9-4 to claim this country's only hockey gold medal.

Just 13 days before, the two teams had a confrontation in Madison Square Garden and the Soviets pulled off a one-sided 10-3 win. At the time, U.S. coach Herb Brooks said the loss would help his team if they were fortunate enough to meet the Russians in the Olympic medal round.

After the game, Brooks quietly summed up the meaning of the victory: "This moment was meant to be. We play as a family, we don't have individual stars."

President Jimmy Carter made a congratulatory phone call to the coach after the game, and invited the entire U.S. team to the White House Monday aboard Air Force One. Brooks said the team will gladly accept the honor of sharing a Coke with the president.

For the Soviets, it was their first loss since falling to Czechoslovakia, 5-4, in 1968, and only their sixth Olympic loss since 1956. They outshot the Americans 39-16, and had a clear edge in territorial play.

Russian Coach Viktor Tikhonov was tightlipped in defeat. He said: "The people in the Soviet Union will be upset by this."

Hard-nosed defense and heavy body checking by the spirited U.S. players continually frustrated the usually precise Soviet passing game. Relying on only two sets of defensemen - because of the injury to Jack O'Callahan - Ken Morrow and Mike Ramsey were a solid, often intimidating, wall in front of netminder Jim Craig, who was tested many times in the contest.

It was the sterling play of Craig that helped key the win as he staved off the relentless pressure of the Soviet attackers - who controlled the puck so well they often appeared to be on the power play.

The U.S. trailing 3-2 in the third period, Vladimir Krutov was sent to the penalty box for high sticking Neal Broten. With the penalty almost killed off, Dave Silk started out of his own end carrying the puck down the left side and slipped a pass to Mark Johnson. The 1979 collegiate player of the year, Johnson made no mistake as he directed the puck low into the net for his second goal, tying the game at 8:39.

But the impossible came just 1:21 later when Eruzione hammered Pavelich's pass over the stick of a surprised and confused Myshkin.

A frustrated Soviet team came flying back, however, and managed to penetrate close enough to hit the top left goalpost. Craig was called upon to make numerous stops in the U.S. net.

The U.S. players were eager and aggressive going into the game. After Pavelich hit the post about six minutes into the first period, Vladimir Krutov staked the Soviets to a 1-0 lead at 9:12 when he deflected an offspeed slapshot from the defenseman Aleksei Kasatonov past Craig on the short side.

Drawing on the power of the partisan spectators, Buzz Schneider flew in over the blueline and blasted a 40-foot slapshot over the usually sure glove hand of Vladislav Tretiak. Schneider took a rink-wide pass from Pavelich and used defenseman Biljaletdinov as a screen to record his fifth goal of the tournament.

The Americans picked up the tempo of the game dramatically. Action went from end to end, with heavy hitting by both teams.

The Soviets took a 2-1 lead at 17:34 of the first when Sergei Makarov beat Craig over the glove side. The goal was a perfect execution of the 3-on-2 break, as Makarov skated into the U.S. zone, picked up the puck when his first shot was stopped and rammed his second attempt home.

The wind was knocked out of the Soviet machine with one second left to play in the first period. Skating towards the red line, Dave Christian, whose father played on the 1960 U.S. Olympic squad, let go with a slapshot that Tretiak played casually. The rebound rolled to Johnson and the University of Wisconsin All-American gathered in the puck pulled wide to the left and beat the confused Soviet goaltender.

Shocked and angered, the Soviets skated off. But with one second on the game clock, they had to send three players back to take a perfunctory face-off.

At the start of the second period, the Soviets pulled the normally stalwart Tretiak from the net in favor of the younger Myshkin. At 27, Tretiak, considered by many to be the best goalkeeper in the world, has been with the Soviet national team since 1970, and was the backbone in the 1972 and 1976 gold medal victories.

The Russian team bounced back to recapture the lead at 2:18 of the second, when Alexandre Maltsev scooped up a bouncing puck in his equipment and carried it halfback style past two U.S. defenders and beat an outstretched Craig. John Harrington was off for the U.S. with a two-minute holding penalty.

After the Americans took the lead in the third, the crowd could smell a victory but with ten minutes left to play they had to stave off constant pressure by the Soviets. During one two-minute stretch of play, the U.S. couldn't advance the puck past center ice.

From the bench Coach Brooks calmed his players: "Play your game, play your game."

On defense, Morrow and Ramsey began to assert their physical strength as they cleared Soviet players from in front of the net.

Despite mounting heavy pressure, the Soviets played frustrated as they came up empty at the horn.

Brooks said the game was a case of the men against the boys, and the boys won. The U.S. game plan was to skate aggressively in the offensive zone and stack up the Russians in center ice.

After the game, Team Captain Eruzione summed up the last ten minutes after his go-ahead goal:

"I was trying to tell people to relax, but I don't think God could have come down to calm us down."

The victory gives the U.S. three points in the round robin medal playoffs. The Soviets have the two points they started with in the tournament.

The U.S. will next face off against Finland at 11 a.m. Sunday, and a win assures them the first gold hockey medal in 20 years.

 
 

 

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