Archive for OG Great Goalies

Miller Is Certainly Most Valuable


United States goaltender RYAN MILLER (39) skates off after the opening day victory over Switzerland at the 2010 Winter Olympics from Canada Hockey Place in Vancouver. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)


It should have come as no surprise that United States goaltender RYAN MILLER of the Buffalo Sabres finished the 2010 Winter Olympics as the netminder with the top save percentage (for those having made at least fifty saves) at the Vancouver Games :

  • 94.56 % — 139 sv —   8 go — Ryan MILLER — United States
  • 93.57 % — 131 sv —   9 go — Tomas VOKOUN — Czech Republic
  • 92.73 % —   51 sv —   4 go — Henrik LUNDQVIST — Sweden
  • 92.68 % — 114 sv —   9 go — Roberto LUONGO — Canada
  • 91.82 % — 146 sv — 13 go — Jonas HILLER — Switzerland
  • 91.36 % —   74 sv —   7 go — Andrei MEZIN — Belarus
  • 91.05 % — 173 sv — 17 go — Jaroslav HALAK — Slovakia
  • 90.59 % —   77 sv —   8 go — Vitali KOVAL — Belarus

Miller started all six games and played all but eleven minutes and thirty-one seconds of the entire Olympic schedule for the U.S. national team in Vancouver. The former Michigan State University All-America posted one shutout and a sparkling 1.35 goals-against-average at the Olympic tournament, as well. Indeed, the Directorate of the International Ice Hockey Federation selected the American for the Best Goaltender award.

More importantly — and most deservedly — the 29-year-old was chosen as the Most Valuable Player of the ice hockey tournament at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

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Calgary ’88 : Home Boys Boost West Germans Past Czechoslovakia


Canadian-born and bred KARL FRIESEN (left), who appeared at three Winter Olympic Games for both West Germany and Germany, was a six-time Bundesliga All-Star and was also twice named the West German elite league’s most valueable player.


It was the very first event of the XV Winter Olympics in 1988. In fact, the initial puck was dropped at the Olympic Saddledome for the Czechoslovakia – West Germany ice hockey match before the Olympic flame had been formally lit for the opening ceremonies inside McMahon Stadium. Nonetheless, the very first suprise result of the Calgary Games ensued.

Czechoslovakia, winners of four silver and two Olympic bronze medals since 1948, had come to Calgary seeded third on the back on a bronze medal at the 1987 IIHF World Championships in Vienna. Two years previously, in 1985, the Czechoslovaks captured the annual IIHF title on home ice in Prague. The West Germans, on the other hand, had never beaten Czechoslovakia at the Winter Olympics having lost all six prior meetings and given up an average of eight and a half goals per game in the process.

An so, JIRI HRDINA’s late first period power play goal to give Czechoslovakia a 1-0 lead came as no great shock to the crowd at the Saddledome. The supposed-neutral spectators cheered enthusiastically; no fewer than six of Czechoslovakia’s 1988 Olympic squad had been drafted by the hometown Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League. Hrdina, in fact, was slated by Czechoslovak authorities to join the NHL’s Flames immediately after the Winter Games were finished.

The West Germans, however, delivered notice of intent by posting an edge in shots-on-goal for the opening period. With the quintessential Bundesliga tactic, a slapshot from the top of the faceoff circle, it was EC Koeln winger HELMUT STEIGER who leveled the score not six minutes into the second stanza for West Germany. Meanwhile, the West Germans continued to play with a physical approach and again ran up a another advantage in the period for shots-on-goal.

Czechoslovakia had more of the play in the final twenty minutes but were unable to find the answer to KARL FRIESEN in the West German goal. Born in Winnipeg and a product of Canadian junior hockey, the 29-year-old netminder had become a star in the Bundesliga for SB Rosenheim and the regular first-choice for the West German national team before signing with the New Jersey Devils organization in the fall of 1985. Friesen only made four appearances (7.38 avg) in the NHL for New Jersey and spent most of the year manning the nets for the Maine Mariners (35 ga, 3.48 avg, 2 so) in the American Hockey League.

Friesen, who finished with 30 saves, kept Czechoslovakia off the scoreboard and set the stage for two more native Canadians to play their part in the opening act at the Calgary Games.

Former University of Calgary student-ahtlete and one-time Buffalo Sabres defenseman RON FISCHER initiated the decisive move.

Another Canadian junior hockey product and veteran West German international, ROY ROEDGER, provided the creative pass which allowed PETER SCHILLER to easily backhand past JAROMIR SINDEL (31 saves) in the Czechoslovak cage with seven minutes left.

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Innsbruck ’76 : Epic Finale / USSR vs CSSR


Two goals inside of 24 seconds from VALERY KHARLAMOV (left) and ALEXANDER YAKUSHEV (right) with under five minutes remaining lifted the USSR to a dramatic 4-3 decision over Czechoslovakia on the final day at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria.


As classic a de facto Gold Medal Match as Olympic history has to offer…

Ever since half a million soldiers from the armies of the SOVIET UNION and other Warsaw Pact nations invaded CZECHOSLOVAKIA back in 1968, international sporting events between the two nations had soared to new heights for intensity as well as competitiveness — especially in ice hockey. 

Even before the decisive final twenty minutes at the finale of the 1976 Winter Olympic tournament, one cannot say that Czechoslovakia did not have ample opportunity to defeat the Soviet Union and deliver a powerful message of symbolic revenge in the final game at Innsbruck.

At the clash of Eastern-bloc arch-rivals and contemporary international ice hockey powerhouses in the Austrian Alps, the USSR were shooting for a fourth consecutive set of gold medals at the Winter Games; Czechoslovakia were coveting the first Olympic title in their nation’s history.

The Czechoslovaks, in fact, were already leading 2-0 thru centers MILAN NOVY (6) and IVAN HLINKA (10) midway through the second period when a glorious chance arrived. A pair of Soviets in the box gave Czechoslovakia a 5-on-3 power play which, however, went by the boards thanks to the noteable efforts of USSR center VLADIMIR SHADRIN (19) as well as defensemen YURI LIAPKIN (5) and GENNADY TSYGANKOV (7) on the penalty-kill.

Having earned the reprieve, the Soviets thereafter responded with goals from Shadrin and fellow centerman VLADIMIR PETROV (16) to knot the match and leave all to play for in the third period.

Czechoslovakia’s JIRI HOLOCEK (2) and the USSR’s VLADISLAV TRETIAK (20) each managed to keep all pucks out over the first half of the last period.

It is at this point that the uninterupted footage presented by WORLD HOCKEY begins, with roughly ten minutes left in the third at the OLYMPIA EISHALLE in Innsbruck and the score level at USSR 2 – CSSR 2 :

Roughly a 1:20 into the clip, the Czechoslovak captain and center of a doping scandal at Innsbruck, FRANTISEK POSPISIL (7), collects a Soviet clearance in his own end and skates the puck well behind his own net before embarking on a mid-ice rush. At the red line, the defenseman squares the puck for his streaking SONP Kladno teammate EDUARD NOVAK (22).

Once inside the Soviet zone and seemingly surrounded, the 29-year-old right wing quickly fires a wrist-shot that appears to take a deflection off of defenseman ALEANDER GUSEV (2) and fool Tretiak in the USSR goal. An indelible, if premature, celebration from Novak ensues. The Czechoslovaks are now nine minutes less two seconds from the Olympic gold medal.

A few minutes later, Czechoslovak will critically fail to widen their lead, however. At the 4:35 mark of the clip, the veteran Olympian JIRI HOLIK (20) circles his own cage and heads down the right on a rink-length rush before deftly dishing the disc to BOHUSLAV STASTNY (12). Although at first apparently beaten, the catllike Tretiak is able to thwart the Tesla Pardubice wing with a last-ditch dive and literally save the game for the USSR.

This stop proves to be absolutely critical for, soon, the Soviet Union will immediately strike back after the go-ahead goal-scorer Novak is sent to the penalty box with less than six minutes to play for a foul on BORIS MIKHAILOV (13) along the left wing boards.

The Czechoslovaks do not appear to be in such bad shape on the penalty-kill until Tysgankov pulls a smart move in front of his pursuer Novy’s bench and sends the speeding VIKTOR SHALIMOV (9) the puck. A procession of drop passes among Spartak players produces a goal-mouth scramble. Finally, Shalimov is able to poke the puck across to ALEXANDER YAKUSHEV (15) on the right and, in an instant, the game is tied.

Considering the earlier victory at Innsbruck Czechoslovakia were made to forfeit on account of Pospisil’s failed drug test following the Poland match, a draw was enough to do the deal for the Soviets in their last match.

Within a scant 24 seconds, however, the result was rendered beyond doubt in the Gold Medal Match at Innsbruck.

Petrov controls an offensive zone face-off and immediately slips the puck past defenseman JIRI BUBLA (19) to a wide-open VALERY KHARLAMOV (17) in front of the Czechoslovak goal. With Holocek now caught out of position, the whole of the net is at the CSKA Moscow left wing’s mercy. Kharlamov makes no mistake as the USSR surge suddenly ahead.

Four minutes minus one second still remain to be contested but it is almost immediately evident that the Czechoslovaks’ spirit has been effectively eliminated by the Soviets’ lightning-quick, consecutive goals in the second half of the third period.

The Soviets begin to practice some possession hockey in earnest and, thus, severely crimp Czechoslovakia’s chances for the two goals the blue helmets now require to take the gold medal.

In fact, it is the Soviets who have all the best opportunities the rest of the way; a single long wrist shot from Novak easily swept aside by Tretiak with under a minute to go summarized Czechoslovakia’s  most dangerous counterattack.

After the CSKA Moscow puck tamer turned away a desperation drive from outside the blueline by OLDRICH MACHAC (4) in the waning moments, the USSR’s run of Olympic supremacy since 1964 remained in tact.

For the fifth time in six appearances at the Winter Games, the Soviet Union are Olympic ice hockey champions.


Additional highlight footage from the 1976 de facto Gold Medal Match at the Olympia Eishalle in Innsbruck.

The slow-motion shots of the third Soviet goal provides a different angle for the viewing connoisseur.

The uninhibited frustration to be found on the faces of the Czechoslovaks at their bench following Yakushev’s tying goal is rather insightful, as well.

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Tretiak’s Triumphant Ending



While the final seconds wane in Sarajevo, defenseman SERGEI STARIKOV (12), the man whose glaring mistake paved the way for the most colossal upset in all of sport, circles and stoops to scoop the puck at the Soviet goal line. With time expired, the balance of the USSR national team empty the bench and flock their puck tamer, VLADISLAV TRETIAK (20). As the uncharacteristic smiles on the Soviet players’ faces might indicate, gone are the ghosts of Lake Placid past as Czechoslovakia fall 2-0 on the final day at the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo :

The final 2:30 of the 1984 Gold Medal Match :

The USSR collected its sixth gold medal at Sarajevo in 1984 since joining the Olympic movement twenty-eight years earlier. The latest Soviet triumph resulted in a third Olympic gold medal for Tretiak and placed the 31-year-old in very select company. The CSKA Moscow goaltender became just the fifth player ever, all from the USSR, to be awarded three gold medals for ice hockey at the Winter Games.

Two bad goals surrendered in twenty minutes had earned Tretiak a seat on the bench after the first period of the USSR’s dramatic 4-3 loss to the United States at the 1980 Olympics. After the match, as was to be expected, much criticism had been directed at Tretiak’s play between the pipes. Although Tretiak backstopped the Soviets to three IIHF World Championships and a Canada Cup trophy against the very best of the National Hockey League following the Lake Placid debacle, there could only be one way to completely redeem himself for the greater glory of the Soviet Union.

Like his countryman NIKOLAI PUCHKOV at Cortina many years earlier, Tretiak turned in clean sheets for the Soviets’ final two matches with blankings of Canada and Czechoslovkia in the medal round at Sarajevo. Although Tretiak’s appearance in Yugoslavia was his fourth at the Winter Games, the goose eggs were the first two solo shutouts of the veteran’s 19-game Olympic career.

Tretiak, who ended his active playing career after the season, allowed only one goal in each of his other four games at Sarajevo and finished with a sparkling 0.67 goals-against-average at the 1984 Winter Olympic Games.

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Konovalenko Completes Olympic Career

Goaltender VIKTOR KONOVALENKO was a rarity among USSR internationals in that he did not play for a Moscow-based club at some point. Konovalenko spent his entire career in the Soviet elite league tending the nets for his hometown Torpedo Gorky.

Goaltender VIKTOR KONOVALENKO was a rarity among USSR internationals in that he did not play for a Moscow-based club at some point. Konovalenko spent his entire career in the Soviet elite league tending the nets for his hometown Torpedo Gorky.


The final four seconds tick of the clock at LE STADE DE GLACE in the French Alps. Shortly, the Soviet Union will repeat as Olympic champions at the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble.

With the contest’s conclusion, the whole of the Soviet squad rush to congratulate USSR goaltender VIKTOR KONOVALENKO. Konovalenko stopped 25 shots in the 5-0 victory over Canada in the tournament’s final match. In keeping with a Russian tradition, the Soviet skaters surround the two-time Olympic champion goaltender and toss him into the air :

Konovalenko had been beaten for five goals by Czechoslovakia in the Soviets’ preceding match, which the USSR lost to their Warsaw Pact rivals. The Czechoslovaks, however, could only muster a 2-2 draw with Sweden on the final day of play at Grenoble.  This left the the door open for the Soviet Union to claim the gold medal with a victory over Canada.

Konovalenko and the Soviets gratefully made the most of their second chance.

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Cortina ’56 : Ikola Put Canada On Ice


Left : United States goaltender WILLARD IKOLA minding the nets for the University of Michigan.

Right : Canada’s 1956 Olympic goaltender DENIS BRODEUR.


Following the conclusion of the Second World War, the Canadians pretty much had their way with the United States at major international ice hockey events well into the 1950s.

Although the U.S. scrambled a 3-3 draw with Canada at the Oslo Games in 1952, heavy losses such as 12-3 at the St. Moritz Games in 1948 and 16-2 at the 1951 IIHF World Championships in Paris were more indicative of contemporary results for the Americans against their neighbors to the north. 

A year prior to the 1956 Winter Olympics, the Untied States had been thrashed 12-1 by Canada, represented by the Penticton Vees, at the annual World Championships in West Germany.

In the second game of the final round-robin at the Games of Cortina d’Ampezzo, the Canadians a.k.a. Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen, as could be expected, had little trouble mounting an assault on the American goal in the Italian Alps.

Holding the fort, however, was WILLARD IKOLA, the two-time NCAA champion at the University of Michigan. The 23-year-old natvie of Edina, Minnesota, turned aside 38 shots to stiffle the nation that had won five of six Winter Olympic ice hockey tournaments to this point. The United States, meanwhile, were gifted a goal by Canuck goaltender DENIS BRODEUR and never looked back on the way to a surprising 4-1 win.

Perhaps on the strength of this performance, it was Ikola who ultimately was tabbed by the International Ice Hockey Federation Directorate as the Best Goalie of the tournament for the silver medal-winning United States squad.


WILLARD IKOLA became a highly successful coach at Edina High School in Minnesota after his playing career. Ikola set the Minnesota state record with 616 wins (against 149 losses with 38 ties) upon retirement in 1991 as Edina HS captured eight state titles under his tutelage.  

DENIS BRODEUR is the father of current New Jersey Devils goaltender MARTIN BRODEUR, who is scheduled to make his fourth appearance at the Winter Olympics for Canada next month at the Vancouver Games.

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Cortina ’56 : Pushkov Was Perfect

Goaltender NIKOLAI PUCHKOV (far right) plays the puck for the Soviet Union at the 1954 IIHF World Championships in Stockholm. With Pushkov between the pipes in Sweden, the USSR captured the annual IIHF title on their debut at a major international event.

Goaltender NIKOLAI PUCHKOV (far right) plays the puck for the Soviet Union at the 1954 IIHF World Championships in Stockholm. With Pushkov between the pipes in Sweden, the USSR captured the annual IIHF title on their debut at a major international event.


In the much-anticipated return match at Krefeld, the goaltender of the Soviet Union, NIKOLAI PUCHKOV, had been banished to the bench early in the third period as Canada re-captured its typical top spot at the 1955 IIHF World Championships in West Germany.

After allowing four goals versus Czechoslovakia in the Soviets’ fifth game, there had to be some concern among the USSR coaching staff with respect to Puchkov’s play heading into the final two rounds of the ice hockey tournament at the 1956 Winter Olympic Games in the Italian Alps. Left on the schedule were the United States and Canada, the two top goal-getting teams outside of the Soviets themselves at Cortina d’Ampezzo. The Americans and the Canadians were also the returning silver and gold medalists, repsectively, from the Oslo Games in 1952.

Champion players will rise to the occasion, however, particularly at the Olympics under the scrutiny of an entire planet.

In the USSR’s penultimate match, Pushkov produced 24 saves for the Soviets in the 4-0 whitewash of the United States in the first-ever meeting of the world’s two contemporary superpowers.

Then, the 25-year-old delievered another flawless performance when the Soviet Union required such most. Pushkov pushed out 23 more shots against Canada — the CSKA Moscow netminder’s work all the more noticeable on account of the fact the USSR, for their part, totaled just nine shots in response. Despite this lack of sustained attack, the Soviets skated off 2-0 winners opposite Canada on the final day at Cortina d’Ampezzo.

In all, Puchkov posted three shutouts for the USSR at the 1956 Winter Olympics but, somewhat surprisingly, was not selected as the tournament Best Goalie by the International Ice Hockey Federation Directorate.

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Lake Placid ’80 : Lindbergh Was Large For Sweden


Left : Sweden goaltender PER-ERIK “Pelle” LINDBERGH (1)

Right : Czechoslovakia center PETER STASTNY (26)=======================================================

It was certainly among the most pivotal matches at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid.

The Czechoslovaks, despite a disappointing 7-3 loss to the upstart United States in their second game, still had all to play for on the last day of round-robin competition. The IIHF world champions from 1976 and 1977, runners-up in 1978 and 1979, as well, were still a powerful, veteran squad featuring MILAN NOVY as well as the all-brother line of ANTON, MARIAN and PETER STASTNY. The defending silver medalists from the Innsbruck Games would qualify for the medal round with a victory over Sweden in their final round-robin game.

The Swedes, for their part, required a tie at the minimum against Czechoslovakia to move into the medal round at Lake Placid. Sweden, thanks to their 2-2 draw with the United States on opening day, stood one point ahead of the Czechoslovaks in the Blue Division standings. Still, the Swedes had managed but one tie with seven losses their last eight games at the past four IIHF World Championships versus Czechoslovakia.

What’s more, unlike at the Winter Olympics, the Swedes used National Hockey League players at these World Championships, which was allowable since 1976.

Novy did notch a goal for Czechoslovakia as did JAROSLAV POUZAR, who ended up the leader at Lake Placid with eight goals. And the Czechoslovaks did enjoy a decided 43-26 advantage in shots-on-goal. But Czechoslovakia’s continuous medal run since 1964 would not continue, however.

PELLE LINDBERGH, the Philadelphia Flyers’ second round draft choice (# 35 overall) in 1979, would prove to be the end of the line.

The 20-year-old AIK Stockholm puck stopper halted 41 Czechoslovak shots in all. In the meantime, the Swedes found the net four times through MATS AHLBERG, LEIF HOLMGREN, MATS NASLUND and PER LUNDQVIST. The 4-2 result sent Tre Kronor through to the medal round.

Sweden ultimately secured the bronze medal at Lake Placid in 1980.

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Honma Had First Facemask At Olympics

TEIJI HONMA of Japan was the first goaltender to fashion a facemask at the Winter Olympics when he appeared at the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Games. The 24-year-old wore a mask for practical purposes - to protect his eyeglasses. Honma conceded five goals in two games against Great Britain and Sweden as Japan failed to score a single goal in Germany.

TEIJI HONMA of Japan was the first goaltender to fashion a facemask at the Winter Olympics when he appeared at the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Games. The 24-year-old wore a mask for practical purposes - to protect his eyeglasses. Honma conceded five goals in two games against Great Britain and Sweden as Japan failed to score a single goal in Germany.


The first time an ice hockey goaltender fashioned a mask for protection came in the late 1920s, although there is debate exactly who was first. The Hockey Hall of Fame in Canada supports the notion it was a North American playing in Switzerland who wore a baseball catcher’s mask to set a new standard. There is also, however, a photograph of female Elizabeth Graham employing a fencer’s mask for Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontrario, circa February 1927.

Clint Benedict of the Montreal Maroons was the first goalie to appear in the National Hockey League wearing a customized mask with his return to action on February 22, 1930. Six weeks earlier, Benedict, after dropping to his knees during a game, had had his nose and checkbone broken by a fierce shot from Montreal Canadiens superstar Howie Morenz.

Benedict’s mask was made of leather - reinforced by wire inside – and covered his forehead, nose and mouth but, obviously, not his eyes.

The protruding piece on the mask protecting the netminder’s nose obstructed Benedict’s vision, however, and so it was scrapped in short order.

Soon enough, a mask for Benedict became a moot point. On March 4, 1930, the goaltender was again struck by a hard shot from the Canadiens’ Morenz, this time in the neck. And with that, Benedict was effectively persuaded to put away his pads for good.

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No Mask For McCartan

JACK MCCARTAN tending goal for the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in the early 1960s. Two hallmarks of the era in which McCartan minded the nets were few NHL goaltending gigs and no facemasks.

JACK MCCARTAN tending goal for the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in the early 1960s. Two hallmarks of the era in which McCartan minded the nets were few NHL goaltending gigs and no facemasks.


Following Montreal Maroons goalkeeper Clint Benedict’s short-lived flirtation in 1930, the mask disappeared from the NHL scene for the better part of the next three decades. International ice hockey, not surprisingly, followed suit. In some respects for all involved, it was viewed as a matter of courage and commitment.

Nikolai Pushkov had no protection for his face when the Soviet Union first appeared at the Winter Olympics to claim the gold medal in 1956.

Neither did JACK MCCARTAN, the IIHF Directorate’s Best Goaltender in 1960 for the championship United States squad at Squaw Valley.

This despite the fact that, in November of 1958, Montreal Canadiens standout netminder Jacques Plante and been hit in the forehead and cut by a backhand shot from New York Rangers forward Andy Bathgate during a game. Following a 45-minute delay to get stitched up, the future Hall of Famer returned to the ice wearing a fibreglass mask molded to fit his face. Over the initial objections of his coach, Plante continued to wear this new-style facial protection through the rest of the 1958-59 season and, with improvements, into the next.

Still, it would take a while before the facial protection became standard equipment, however.


Jack McCartan was signed by the New York Rangers shortly following the United States won the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in February of 1960.

The former University of Minnesota All-America was initially dispatched to the Minneapolis Rangers of the Central Hockey League but was recalled late in the season to play four games (1.75 avg, 1 W, 1 L, 2 T) with New York in the National Hockey League.

McCartan was manhandled by NHL competition in eight games (4.77 avg, 1 w, 6 L, 1 T) early into the 1960-61 campaign and was sent to the Kitchener-Waterloo Beavers of the Eastern Professional Hockey League to finish the year.

McCartan never returned to the top flight and spent the next 11 seasons with various teams in assorted minor leagues before finally signing with the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the fledgling World Hockey Association, a rival circuit to the NHL, for the 1972-73 season.

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