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Road to 1980 Gold: U.S. Comes Back Against Finland to Win Gold

By USA Hockey, 02/24/20, 10:00AM EST


Team captures second ice hockey gold medal in country’s history

The 1980 U.S. Olympic Men's Hockey Team completed a miraculous run to the second hockey gold medal in the country's history. Sports Illustrated called the "Miracle on Ice" victory over the Soviet Union on their way to gold as the greatest sports moment of the 20th century.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary, we are reliving every game on the road to gold.

U.S. Comes Back Against Finland to Win Gold

February 24, 1980

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – The U.S. scored three goals in the third period to come from behind and defeat Finland, 4-2, capturing gold at the 1980 Olympic Winter Games and capping a miraculous run. The gold medal is the second in the sport in the country’s history, joining the 1960 team that won gold in Squaw Valley, Calif.

Finland scored the only goal of the first period 9:20 in. Finnish captain Jukka Porvari received a pass just inside the blue line from Mikko Leinonen, and shot a one-timer past Jim Craig (N. Easton, Mass.).

Steve Christoff (Richfield, Minn.) tied up the game 4:39 into the second period. Christoff stole the puck off of a Finnish defenseman’s stick. He then made his way toward the middle of the ice and fired a backhand shot past goaltender Jorma Valtonen.

Leinonen gave Finland the lead on the power play nearly two minutes later. After the puck was sent behind the U.S. net, it snuck out to the point. Hannu Haapalainen found Leinonen on the back door, who tapped it in for a 2-1 lead.

Phil Verchota (Duluth, Minn.) tied the game for the U.S. 2:25 into the third. Dave Christian (Warroad, Minn.) weaved through two defenders in the offensive zone and passed to Verchota on the left wing. Verchota then shot it on the glove side.

Rob McClanahan (St. Paul, Minn.) would give the U.S. the lead 3:40 later. Mark Johnson (Madison, Wis.) drew two defenders behind the Finland net. He then made a backhand pass to McClanahan out front, who slid it through the five-hole of Valtonen.

Johnson would add the final goal for the U.S. with less than four minutes to go in the game. He collected the puck at the blue line and came in on his back hand. After his first shot was stopped, Johnson corralled his own rebound and scored to make it 4-2.

To help secure the gold medal, Craig stopped 21 of 23 shots, including all 10 he faced in the third period. The U.S. finished the tournament with a 5-0-1 record.

The Soviet Union would claim the silver medal while Sweden took home bronze.

U.S. Stuns Soviet Union In First Medal Round Game

February 22, 1980

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – In what is known as the largest upset in Olympic ice hockey history, the U.S. defeated the four-time defending gold medalist and heavily favored Soviet Union, 4-3, in the first of two medal round games. The U.S. will face Finland on February 24 for a chance to win the country’s second ice hockey gold medal (1960).

The Soviets scored first 9:12 into the game. After the puck was sent to the blueline, Aleksei Kasatonov shot it back toward the net where it was deflected in by Vladimir Krutov.

Bill “Buzz” Schneider (Babbitt, Minn.) would tie up the game five minutes later. Mark Pavelich (Eveleth, Minn.) passed to Schneider in the neutral zone. Schneider then came down the left wing and fired a slapshot past goaltender Vladislav Tretjak to make it 1-1.

The Soviet Union answered on a Sergei Makarov goal at the 17:34 mark. Makarov attempted to pass the puck, but it went off a U.S. skate and back to Makarov, who shot it over the glove of Jim Craig (N. Easton, Mass.).

With one second remaining in the first period, the U.S. shocked the building by evening the score once again. With time winding down, Dave Christian (Warroad, Minn.) fired the puck from the U.S. side of the red line right on net. The puck was stopped by Tretjak, and Mark Johnson (Madison, Wis.) blew past the Soviet defenders to collect the puck and make one move to put it past Tretjak to tie it at two. Tretjak was replaced at the start of the second period by Vladimir Myshkin.

Alexandre Maltsev regained the lead for the Soviets with the only goal of the second period. Krutov stole the puck at center ice and sprung Maltsev for a breakaway on the power play. Maltsev was able to get it past Craig for a 3-2 lead.

Johnson would tie the game once again in the third period on a power play goal. On a three-on-three rush, Dave Silk (Scituate, Mass.) made a move to the middle. As he was taken down by a Soviet defenseman, he was able to move the puck forward. The puck went off another Soviet defenseman and right to Johnson, who shot it through the five-hole of Myshkin.

Captain Mike Eruzione (Winthrop, Mass.) would put the U.S. on top for good just 1:21 later. An initial shot was deflected into the corner by Myshkin, which put the U.S. on the forecheck. Two U.S. forwards went after the puck on the wall, and were able to knock it free. The puck came to the middle of the ice where Eruzione picked it up and scored blocker side to give the U.S. a 4-3 lead.

The Soviet Union had one final opportunity with 20 seconds left. After putting the puck in the U.S. end, Team USA was able to clear it to the neutral zone as time expired, and the celebration began.

Craig stopped 36 of the 39 shots he faced on the way to his fourth win of the tournament. The U.S. finished its tournament schedule against Finland two days later with a shot at claiming gold.

U.S. Comes From Behind to Defeat West Germany

February 20, 1980

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – The U.S. scored four unanswered goals to come from behind and defeat West Germany, 4-2, to round out group play with a 3-0-1 record. The U.S. will face the Soviet Union in the first game of the medal round on Feb. 22.

West Germany got out to an early 1-0 lead on a Horst-Peter Kretschmer unassisted goal 1:50 into the first period. West Germany would capitalize on the power play with 15 seconds remaining in the period to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Udo Kiessling found the back of the net with assists going to Ernst Hofner and Kretschmer.

It would remain 2-0 until the 7:40 mark of the second. Rob McClanahan (St. Paul, Minn.) received a pass from Mark Johnson (Madison, Wis.) and went in all along against Sigmund Suttner. McClanahan waited and then moved the puck to his backhand and past Suttner for the goal.

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Neal Broten (Roseau, Minn.) tied the game up with under two minutes to go in the frame. Mike Eruzione (Winthrop, Mass.) made a pass to Eric Strobel (Rochester, Minn.) who attempted to weave around the defenders. As he was falling down, the puck found the stick of Broten, who fired it home to make it 2-2.

It did not take long into the third period for the U.S. to take a 3-2 lead. 1:17 in, McClanahan scored his second goal of the game. After collecting the puck at center ice, McClanahan got past one check, and then made a cut-back move to the slot before shooting it past Suttner. Johnson and Dave Christian (Warroad, Minn.) picked up the assists again.

Exactly three minutes later, Phil Verchota (Duluth, Minn.) improved the U.S. lead to two. Christian shot the puck from the blue line with Verchota parked in front of the net. Verchota was able to deflect it past the glove of Suttner to cap the scoring for the U.S.

Earning his third win of the tournament, Jim Craig (N. Easton, Mass.) made 24 saves, including 13 in the third period.  

U.S. Tops Romania, 7-2, in Fourth Olympic Contest

February 18, 1980

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. Bill “Buzz” Schneider (Babbitt, Minn.) used another multi-goal game to help lead the U.S. to a 7-2 victory over Romania in the fourth game of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games.

Schneider put the U.S. on the board 12:03 into the first period. On a three-on-two, Mark Pavelich (Eveleth, Minn.) and John Harrington (Virginia, Minn.) passed back and forth before finding Schneider on the back door. It was the first time in the tournament that the U.S. opened the scoring in a game.

Three minutes later, Schneider assisted on Eric Strobel’s (Rochester, Minn.) goal to put the U.S. up 2-0. Mike Ramsey (Minneapolis, Minn.) fired a shot in from the point that was deflected by Schneider. Strobel then picked up the rebound and put it past Romanian goaltender Valerian Netedu.

Mark Wells (St. Clair Shores, Mich.) improved the U.S. lead to 3-0 with his second period goal. Phil Verchota (Duluth, Minn.) and Ken Morrow (Davison, Mich.) picked up assists on the tally.

Romania scored a power play goal at the 13:40 mark of the second to cut the lead to 3-1.

Schneider would respond with his second goal of the game shortly after. Off an offensive zone faceoff, Schneider fired a slap shot into the back of the net to make it 4-1 U.S.

Steve Christoff (Richfield, Minn.) scored his first goal of the tournament on the power play 8:14 into the third period. Jack O’Callahan (Charlestown, Mass.) put the puck toward the net and it was gathered by Christoff, who turned and fired it past goaltender Gheorghe Hutan, who replaced Netedu in goal in the second period.

Following a Romania goal by Alexandru Halauca, the U.S. responded with two goals less than two minutes apart to cap the scoring. Neal Broten (Roseau, Minn.) scored the sixth goal with an assist from Mike Eruzione (Winthrop, Mass.) while Rob McClanahan (St. Paul, Minn.) picked up his second goal of the Olympics with the help of Mark Johnson (Madison, Wis.).

The U.S. would round out the first round of the tournament against West Germany two days later.

U.S. Tops Norway For Second Win

February 16, 1980

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – The U.S. scored five unanswered goals on the way to a 5-1 victory over Norway in its third Olympic contest.

Norway scored the only goal of the first period just 4:19 in. Geir Myhre got one past Jim Craig (N. Easton, Mass.) with the assist going to Oeivind Loesaamoen.

The U.S. would get their first goal on the power play 41 seconds into the second period. Dave Christian’s (Warroad, Minn.) shot from the point was steered aside by Norwegian goaltender Jim Martinsen, but Mike Eruzione (Winthrop, Mass.) was there to put home the rebound and tie the game.

Mark Johnson (Madison, Wis.) gave the U.S. the lead at 4:51 of the second period. Rob McClanahan (St. Paul, Minn.) collected the puck in the left corner and passed in front to Johnson, who one-timed it into the back of the net.

The scoring would continue later on in the second period, as Dave Silk (Scituate, Mass.) got on the scoresheet. Silk brought the puck in on his off hand and had it knocked away right to Mark Pavelich (Eveleth, Minn.). Pavelich then passed back to Silk who snuck it through the five hole of Martinsen. Ken Morrow (Davison, Mich.) was also credited with an assist.

Team USA would score two more times in the third period. Phil Verchota (Duluth, Minn.) passed to Mark Wells (St. Clair Shores, Mich.), who left it for Silk. Silk then dropped it back to Wells whose initial shot was stopped by Martinsen. The rebound was left in front and Wells crashed the net and put it home for a 4-1 U.S. lead.

Morrow picked up his second point of the game with Team USA’s fifth and final goal 11:29 into the third. McClanahan was trying to center the puck to Eric Strobel (Rochester, Minn.) but it went past him and off the far boards. The puck bounced toward Morrow, who slapped it toward the net on the ice and past Martinsen.

Craig earned his second win by stopping 21 of the 22 shots he faced.

The U.S. would take on Romania two days later in their fourth game of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games.

U.S. Takes Down Defending Silver Medalists Czechoslovakia

Feb. 14, 1980

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. - Bill “Buzz” Schneider (Babbitt, Minn.) scored twice and collected an assist as the U.S. defeated Czechoslovakia, 7-3, for their first win of the 1980 Olympic Games.

“I had a gut feeling yesterday at practice,” said head coach Herb Brooks (St. Paul, Minn.). “We really played well at practice, and I think our players realized we had to use our youthfulness as an asset instead of a liability.”

Czechoslovakia started the scoring early, as Jaroslav Pouzar scored just 2:23 into the contest. Frantisek Kaberle and Milan Novy picked up assists.

The U.S. would respond a little over two minutes later. Captain Mike Eruzione (Winthrop, Mass.) notched his first goal of the tournament at the 4:39 mark. Following a neutral zone draw, Neal Broten (Roseau, Minn.) brought the puck into the offensive zone and passed to Eruzione on the left wing. Eruzione fired it past goaltender Jiri Kralik to tie the game at one.

Mark Pavelich (Eveleth, Minn.) gave the U.S. a 2-1 lead just over a minute later. Schneider shot a backhander off the far pad of Kralik, and John Harrington (Virginia, Minn.) could not get much on the rebound, but Pavelich came in and buried it.

Marian Stastny, one of three Stastny’s on the Czechoslovakian team, tied the game at 12:07 of the first. Peter Stastny picked up the assist.

The score would remain 2-2 heading into the second period. Schneider scored his first of two goals 4:33 into the frame. Pavelich brought the puck down the right wing and eluded his defender. Schneider headed toward the front of the net where Pavelich made a backhand pass which Schneider put past Kralik.

Mark Johnson (Madison, Wis.) increased the U.S. lead to two with a goal ten minutes later. After collecting the puck on the boards, Johnson headed toward the slot where he made one move and fired it in on the backhand. Rob McClanahan (St. Paul, Minn.) picked up the assist.

Team USA made it 5-2 early on in the third when Phil Verchota (Duluth, Minn.) notched his first of the Games. After Dave Christian (Warroad, Minn.) split the defensemen and got the puck on net, Verchota picked up the loose rebound and found the back of the net.

Schneider scored his second of the game exactly one minute later. After a good forecheck, the puck was centered to a wide-open Schneider, who made it 6-2.

Following a Jiri Novak goal from Czechoslovakia, McClanahan capped the scoring for the U.S. with less than 10 minutes to go in the game. Johnson brought the puck through the neutral zone and found McClanahan on the wing. As McClanahan was taken down by a Czechoslovakian defenseman, he was able to get enough on the shot to get it past Kralik before sliding into the boards.

The U.S. would take Norway on Feb. 16 in its third game of the tournament.

USA Ties Sweden, 2-2, In 1980 Winter Olympics Opener

February 12, 1980

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. Bill Baker (Grand Rapids, Minn.) scored with 27 seconds left to help the U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey Team tie Sweden, 2-2, in the opening contest of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 12.

Sweden opened the scoring just over 11 minutes into the contest. Defenseman Sture Andersson scored the first goal with assists to Lars Mohlin and Per Lundqvist.

It would remain 1-0 until the 19:32 mark of the second period, when Dave Silk (Scituate, Mass.) netted his first goal of the tournament. Mike Ramsey (Minneapolis, Minn.) and Mark Johnson (Madison, Wis.) were credited with assists.

Sweden regained a one-goal lead 4:45 into the third period with a goal by another defenseman. Jan Eriksson scored while Harald Luckner picked up the helper.

Another late-period goal helped the U.S. tie things up, as Baker scored with 27 seconds remaining. After the U.S. pulled their goalie for an extra attacker, the puck was dished from the boards to the top of the slot. Baker stepped into a one-timer and fired it past Swedish goaltender Pelle Lindbergh. Bill “Buzz” Schneider (Babbitt, Minn.) and Mark Pavelich (Eveleth, Minn.) earned assists on the play.

The U.S. had one final chance with an offensive zone draw with nine seconds left, but Sweden was able to gain possession off the faceoff and cleared the puck to the neutral zone securing the tie.

Jim Craig (N. Easton, Mass.) stopped 34 shots in the contest. Sweden outshot the U.S. 16-7 in the first period before the U.S. outshot them 22-20 the rest of the way.

Next up for the U.S. was a showdown with Czechoslovakia on Feb. 14 in the second Olympic contest.

The U.S. celebrates a goal against Sweden in the opening game.

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