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.