Archive for OG Unbelievable Upsets

Russians Left Red-Faced

A Finnish player lunges in a bid to steal the puck from the on-rushing Russian player in a historic match at the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. In just their second-ever Olympic match, the Russians managed to 'accomplish' what had never been 'achieved' before by the old juggernaut from the Soviet Union.

A Finnish player lunges in a bid to steal the puck from the on-rushing Russian player in a historic match at the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. In just their second-ever Olympic match, the Russians managed to 'accomplish' what had never been 'achieved' before by the old juggernaut from the Soviet Union.

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Including the results of the Unified Team at Albertville in 1992, the UNION of SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS entered ten competitions for ice hockey at the Winter Olympic Games and ended eight of those as tournament champions.

With that legacy left to serve as some sort of measuring stick, the newly re-born nation of RUSSIA sent its first-ever official Oympic ice hockey team to Norway for the 1994 Winter Games. 

At Lillehammer in Norway, Russia’s national team coach, VIKTOR TIKHONOV, had remained the same as the old Soviet Union, but the quality of the national side itself had not. For decades, the USSR had been able to access its best players all the time. However, the en masse stampede of the former Soviet skaters to sign lucrative professional contracts in the West, preferably, the National Hockey League, at the start of the 1990s had extracted too much of a toll on the talent pool available for the national team.

The results were evident immediately.

Although the Russians took care of the host nation 5-1 in their first outing, Tikhonov’s troops were left red-faced shortly thereafter. The USSR and the Unified Team had played a combined 70 games over the course of 36 years without failing to score at least one goal in an ice hockey match at the Winter Games. Russia, in just their second Olympic contest ever, were summarily shutout 5-0 by their Nordic neighbors from Finland.

Later, in their fourth Group A round-robin game, Russia were defeated 4-2 by Germany. Sporting the record of sixty-seven wins and one tie, the old Soviet Union had never lost to West Germany in any match whatsoever including ’friendly’ exhibitions. For the record, the USSR never lost to East Germany, either, having won thirty-five games with one draw.

At the Lillehammer Games in 1994, the winds of change were certainly blowing and right in the Russians face, as well.

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Calgary ’88 : Home Boys Boost West Germans Past Czechoslovakia

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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.

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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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Cortina ’56 : Ikola Put Canada On Ice

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

Right : Canada’s 1956 Olympic goaltender DENIS BRODEUR.

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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.

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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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Minnesota’s Mayasich Hat Trick Hero

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JOHN MAYASICH — University of Minnesota

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After seven failed attempts, including the meeting at the 1920 Summer  Games in Antwerp, Belgium, the Unites States finally defeated their neighbors to the north, Canada, at the Olympics in 1956 at Cortina d’Ampezzo.

The architect of the United States offense in the historic 4-1 win over Canada was JOHN MAYASICH, who provided the margin of victory with three goals. Mayasich was gifted one goal in the Italian Alps by Canadian goaltender DENIS BRODEUR, who allowed a puck lofted high in the air from the three-time All-America at the University of Minnesota  to somehow elude him and land in the net — Mayasich had been seeking a line change. The match was played at night in an outdoor arena; Brodeur lost the puck in the lights.

Mayasich finished the top scorer for the silver medalist United States at the Cortina Games with seven goals and 10 points in seven games.

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Finns And Swedes – Rivalry Ratched Up

LAURI MONONEN scored the goal for Finland that wrecked arch-rival Sweden's medal hopes at the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan. Mononen later skated two seasons in the World Hockey Association for the Phoenix Roadrunners in the mid-1970s before signing to play with SC Bern in Switzerland.

LAURI MONONEN scored the goal for Finland that wrecked arch-rival Sweden's medal hopes at the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan. Mononen later skated two seasons in the World Hockey Association for the Phoenix Roadrunners in the mid-1970s before signing to play with SC Bern in Switzerland.

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SWEDEN and FINLAND first met at a major international tournament for ice hockey in 1949 at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships held in Stockholm. The far-more experienced Swedes, skating on home ice, flattened the Finns 12-1. Thereafter, Swedish domination of their Scandinavian neighbor would continue for some time…

At the 1972 Sapporo Games in Japan, Sweden’s chances for the silver medal appeared to be rather promising as the Winter Olympic ice hockey tournament arrived at it’s conclusion :

  • 3-0-1 — 7 pts : + 17 — SOVIET UNION
  • 3-1-0 — 6 pts : + 16 — CZECHOSLOVAKIA
  • 2-1-1 — 5 pts :   + 5 — SWEDEN
  • 2-2-0 — 4 pts :    - 2 — UNITED STATES
  • 1-3-0 — 2 pts :  - 11 — FINLAND 
  • 0-4-0 — 0 pts :  - 25 — POLAND

Czechoslovakia were slated to meet their old adversaries from the Soviet Union in the very last match; the very same USSR who are the defending World / Olympic champion nine years running now. The United States would skate with the Poles, who were winless, to start the final day. In between, the Swedes would face their traditional rivals, the Finns.

Irrespective of the Americans’ result, the Swedes could secure the silver with a victory over Suomi coupled with a Soviet defeat of the Czechoslovaks.

For the Finns and Swedes, the engagement in Japan would mark the 24th meeting of the two nations at major international events. Sweden had won 18 of the first twenty-three matches and tied three others. The Finns were improving, though, and had finally registered a pair of victories at the World Championships within the past few years leading up to the Sapporo Games.

The next-door neighbors had met three times previously at the Winter Olympics — Sweden sweeping all three matches and outscoring Finland 21-3 with the average margin of victory at six goals per game.

Any Finnish disappointment left over from the loss to the United States in the previous game, however, dissipated immediately after HEIKKI JARN put his name on the scoresheet versus Sweden roughly three minutes into the Finns’ final match.

Backed by two goals from BJORN PALMQVIST, the Swedes staked a 3-2 lead after two periods. But more than halfway thru the third and final frame, disaster would strike Tre Kronor’s ship. Finland’s MATTI KEINONEN scored at 12:43 and was followed two minutes and fifteen seconds later by LAURI MONONEN.

When Sweden failed to put another puck past JORMA VALTONEN, Finland had pulled off an important if improbable upset at the Winter Olympics over the “dear enemy”.

The loss had drastic consequences for the Swedes. The United States had already defeated Poland as expected. After the Soviet Union, indeed, dumped Czechoslovakia 5-2, Sweden were shut out of the medals entirely.

The Finns, no doubt, were not upset with their neighbor’s misfortune.

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JUHANI TAMMINEN, who scored Finland’s second goal of the match, also later spent two seasons in the old World Hockey Association. Tamminen played for the Cleveland Crusaders during the 1975-76 season and was Mononen’s teammate in Phoenix the following year.

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Squaw Valley ’60 : Christian Shoots Down Soviets

United States forward BILL CHRISTIAN shoots the puck past Soviet Union goalkeeper NIKOLAI PUSHKOV with five minutes remaining in the third period for the winning goal in the American's 3-2 upset victory over the USSR at the 1960 Winter Olympic Games at Squaw Valley, California.

United States forward BILL CHRISTIAN shoots the puck past Soviet Union goalkeeper NIKOLAI PUSHKOV with five minutes remaining in the third period for the winning goal in the American's 3-2 upset victory over the USSR at the 1960 Winter Olympic Games at Squaw Valley, California.

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“Tommy had knocked the puck out of the corner and Roger took a shot…I was getting shoved around in front of the net…The puck came out, and I put it back in.”

’60 Olympic hero BILL CHRISTIAN — “The First Miracle On Ice” by Kevin Allen

In front of a jampacked crowd at open-air Blyth Arena in Squaw Valley as well as a national television audience on a Saturday afternoon, 19-year-old TOMMY WILLIAMS picks up a loose puck to the left of USSR goaltender NIKOLAI PUCHKOV. The youngest of the American squad and the only Squaw Valley U.S.A. Olympian to claim a future regular National Hockey League place circles and starts along the boards behind the Soviet net. Confronted by a defender, Williams centers the puck.

ROGER CHRISTIAN, having assumed a dangerous position in the slot, sweeps the puck at Puchkov’s goal with his first touch.

Puchkov stops Roger’s shot but, although apparently covered by a USSR defender in front, brother Bill, the smallest of the U.S. players, is able to locate the disc and deposit such in the Soviet Union goal :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdUsoyZy2aA&feature=PlayList&p=39223EECA14DEC79&index=0

Bill Christian’s second strike of the game gives the United States a 3-2 lead with 5:01 to go in the third period. 

The Soviets would make serious efforts to tie the score for the remainder of the contest. But former University of Minnesota goaltender JACK MCCARTAN, who had turned aside 38 shots in the United States’ 2-1 upset of Canada two days earlier, would not oblige. With the partisan crowd firmly behind him, McCartan finishes with twenty-five saves against the USSR.

And, thus, the Soviet Union fall to the United States for the first time at a major international ice hockey tournament.

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“Perhaps we would have won on a neutral rink, but naturally it is the right of spectators to cheer their team as much as they can and we just had to bear that handicap.”

NIKOLAI ROMANOV, Soviet Minister of Sport in attendance at Squaw Valley

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Calgary ’88 : Bucher Beat Back Finns

REIJO RUOTSALAINEN (29), right, confers with fellow Finn JARI KURRI (17) for the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League. Ruotsalainen joined the Oilers in the spring of 1987 after spending the winter with SC Bern in Switzerland. The smooth-skating rearguard rejoined the Oilers in the spring of 1990 after a trade from the New Jersey Devils just in time to capture a second Stanley Cup with Edmonton.

REIJO RUOTSALAINEN (29), right, confers with fellow Finn JARI KURRI (17) for the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League. Ruotsalainen joined the Oilers in the spring of 1987 after spending the winter with SC Bern in Switzerland. The smooth-skating rearguard rejoined the Oilers in the spring of 1990 after a trade from the New Jersey Devils just in time to capture a second Stanley Cup with Edmonton.

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FINLAND had come to Calgary in 1988 with perhaps their strongest Olympic team yet. The Finns were featuring six former National Hockey League players including one-time New York Rangers All-Star defenseman REIJO RUOTSALAINEN. Ruotsalainen, 27, had hoisted the Stanley Cup with Wayne Gretzky and the empirical Edmonton Oilers just nine months earlier.

SWITZERLAND, in some respects, were just happy to have the opportunity to skate at the Olympic finals in Alberta. Even though the competition had been expanded to twelve teams eight years earlier, Switzerland’s appearance at the Calgary Games marked their ice hockey team’s first Winter Olympics since 1964. What’s more, the Swiss had lost all ten of their games at the 1987 IIHF World Championships A pool in Vienna the previous spring and had been immediately demoted right back down to the B pool for the following tournament.

If nothing else for the Swiss, events in Austria did foreshadow what lay ahead in Alberta for the Finns, however.

In the first of two meetings the spring of 1987 at Vienna, Finland unleashed a relentless 84-shot barrage upon Switzerland’s goal. Standing tall between the sticks, Swiss goaltender OLIVER ANKEN was undaunted, however. Although Finland ended up on top 3-2, it was Anken’s astonishing 81 saves that fashioned the all the attention and rightly so.

At Calgary the following winter, the Finns and Swiss faced off once again on the opening day of Group B play in the round-robin.

This time around, Switzerland scored twice thru PETER JAKS and JAKOB KOELLIKER within the game’s initial eight minutes and in spite of just five shots for the opening twenty minutes. For the whole of contest, actually, the Swiss would officially generate only fifteen efforts on the Finnish goal. The balance of the story is on the account of Switzerland’s goaltender, RICHARD BUCHER.

Finland did get one goal back roughly four minutes into the third period and applied furious pressure the rest of the way, but, in all, Bucher was able to block 32 pucks as Switzerland skated off 2-1 victors.

As a testament to the genuine quality of their squad in 1988, it was the Finns who ultimately went home with the set of silver medals for the ice hockey competition at Calgary.

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Lake Placid ’80 : Craig Was Cornerstone

United States netminder JIM CRAIG thwarts the Soviet Union's Lativan legend, HELMUT BALDERIS (19), as defenseman BILL BAKER (6) observes in the famous 4-3 upset of the USSR by the Americans at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games. At Lake Placid in Craig, a 1977 fourth round NHL draft pick (# 72 overall) of the Atlanta Flames, the Soviets ran into one genuine red hot goaltender.

United States netminder JIM CRAIG thwarts the Soviet Union's Lativan legend, HELMUT BALDERIS (19), as defenseman BILL BAKER (6) observes in the famous 4-3 upset of the USSR by the Americans at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games. At Lake Placid in Craig, a 1977 fourth round NHL draft pick (# 72 overall) of the Atlanta Flames, the Soviets ran into one genuine red hot goaltender.

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Of course, any proper discussion of the all-time greatest single-game goaltending performances at the Winter Olympic Games could not continue without the name JIM CRAIG joining the conversation sooner as compared to later.

The United States’ startling defeat of the Soviet Union at the 1980 Lake Placid Games is regarded by many to be not just the most monumental upset in the history of Olympic ice hockey, but, indeed, the most significant giant-killing in all of sport. The ultimate David slays Goliath game.

The Soviet squad at Lake Placid, winners of four consecutive Olympic tournaments, was considered to be the most powerful hockey team on earth after having spanked the National Hockey League All-Stars 6-0 in the deciding match of a best-of-three Challenge Cup series twelve months earlier at Madision Square Garden in New York City.

The United States, by contrast, was a collection of collegians in an era when American college players were lucky enough just to reach the NHL and maintain full-time position.

The U. S. had taken on the USSR at Madison Square Garden in an exhibition just a few days prior to the Lake Placid Games and had been mangled 10-3.

The Soviet attack lost no steam in Lake Placid as the USSR launched 18 shots at the former Boston University All-American netminder in the first period of the famed medal round match alone. Craig managed to keep sixteen out, however; his efforts after the Soviets had gone ahead 2-1 courtesy a SERGEI MAKAROV goal were imperative. Of particular note was Craig’s point blank save from legendary Soviet captain and international hockey’s all-time top goal scorer, BORIS MIKHAILOV, with time winding down in the opening frame.

Montreal Canadiens goalie KEN DRYDEN, doing the ABC Sports color commentary for the American television audience, pointed out prophetically at the time of the Mikhailov robbery that the Soviets failure to extend its lead could manifest itself to be extremely important — U. S. center MARK JOHNSON proved the Hall of Famer’s theory correct with a fortuitous goal just one second from the end of the first period.

The Soviets quickly regained a 3-2 advantage just two minutes after the first intermission when ALEXANDER MALTSEV made easy work of his one-on-one with Craig. Unfortunatley for the USSR, though, a familiar story fashioned itself by the end of the second period. The Soviet Union had outshot the United States 12-2 the second stanza but, despite a lop-sided 30-10 margin at the end of forty minutes, held a very slim lead of just one goal.

Indeed, the Americans were able to rally for a pair in the third period on just six shots. At the other end, Craig was able to turn back all nine Soviet attempts on goal and pushed his total to 36 saves for the length of the game. Although Johnson had scored twice and it was a goal from the U. S. captain MIKE ERUZIONE that had provided the winner, there was absolutely no question which United States player had been the difference.

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Sapporo ’72 : Curran Was Critical For Silver US

The United States attempts to move the puck out of the defensive zone as Soviet forecheckers give chase at the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan. The USSR, on their way to a third consecutive Olympic gold medal, defeated the USA 7-2. Guarding the net for the Americans against the Soviets is MIKE CURRAN (30).

The United States attempts to move the puck out of the defensive zone as Soviet forecheckers give chase at the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan. The USSR, on their way to a third consecutive Olympic gold medal, defeated the USA 7-2. Guarding the net for the Americans against the Soviets is MIKE CURRAN (30).

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Without question, the 1972 Sapporo Games produced a monumental single-game goaltending performance that rightly takes its place in Olympic history as one of, if not the, all-time best.

It is the second day of the six-team round-robin finals in Sapporo with Czechoslovakia scheduled to meet the United States.

The Czechoslovaks are the regining silver medalists from Grenoble 1968 and enter as runners-up to the USSR at the 1971 IIHF World Championships. The line-up is chock full of international class players such as forward VACLAV NEDOMANSKY, defenseman FRANTISEK POSPISIL and goalie JIRI HOLECEK. This is the one team in the tournament thought to be capable of seriously challenging the Soviet Union, whom Czechoslovakia defeated at Grenoble, for the Olympic title.

The United States, meanwhile, finished in last place at the 1971 IIHF WC and, thus, were relegated to the B pool for the 1972 edition. The U. S. only qualified for the final round-robin at Sapporo with a less-than-overwhelming 5-3 defeat of perennial B poolers Switzerland. A 5-1 loss to medal favorites Sweden did not exactly get the final round-robin off to a flying start for the Americans.

It should have come as no surprise, then, that the Czechoslovaks would lay absolute siege to the American goal with a total of 52 shots being fired on target. Harder to predict would have been that the diminutive MIKE CURRAN, the U. S. goaltender, would be able to adequately deal with fifty-one of those attempts. Taking advantage of both the fine work from the former University of North Dakota netminder and an off-day from Holecek in the Czechoslovak goal, the Americans skated off 5-1 winners.

Czechoslovakia and the United States would both finish the final round-robin with 3-2 records. After the Finns upset the Swedes on the final day, the United States, on the strength of their head-to-head result with the Czechoslovaks, moved into second place behind the unbeaten Soviet Union.

Curran’s goaltending had proved crucial.

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Squaw Valley ’60 : McCartan Was Majestic For Golden US

The 3-2 victory over the Soviet Union by the United States at Squaw Valley in 1960 is probably better remembered than the US win over Canada that year because a) it was the second last US game b) the contest was televised nationally on a Saturday afternoon and c) the Cold War Era was in full swing.

The 3-2 victory over the Soviet Union by the United States at Squaw Valley in 1960 is probably better remembered than the US win over Canada that year because a) it was the second last US game b) the contest was televised nationally on a Saturday afternoon and c) the Cold War Era was in full swing.

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The 1960 Olympic ice hockey tournament was projected to be a tussle between defending champions.

Canada arrived in California having won the 1959 IIHF World Championships in Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Union, meanwhile, had captured the last Olympic gold medal in 1956 at their first attempt.

It was the unheralded United States squad, however, who had stolen the show by the time the Olympic curtain came down in 1960.

The de facto gold medal match at the 1960 Squaw Valley Games came in the middle of the final round when the U.S. (7-0) faced off against Canada (6-1).

The Canadians, who featured the tournament’s two top scorers in Fred Etcher (9 go 12 as) and Bobby Attersley (6 go 12 as), would launch no less than 39 shots on target for the American goal.

But JACK MCCARTAN, the former University of Minnesota All-American on loan from the U.S. Army, turned aside 38 of those in what was certainly the 24-year-old’s signature performance at Squaw Valley as the United States nipped Canada 2-1.

It ranks as one of the best Olympic goaltending efforts of all time.

McCartan, who later played briefly with the New York Rangers before embarking on a long career in the minor leagues, followed that act up with 25 saves for the United States in the nationally-televised 3-2 win over the USSR, who ended up with the bronze medal.

The United States, powered by six unanswered third period goals, downed Czechoslovakia 9-4 in their final game to collect the gold medal.

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