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Team USA Stuns Soviets; Finland Awaits

By Brian Trusdell | Feb. 22, 2015, 6:48 p.m. (ET)

The U.S. Olympic Ice Hockey Team celebrates during the final round game against the Soviet Union at the Olympic Fieldhouse on Feb. 22, 1980 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

To celebrate the 1980 U.S. "Miracle on Ice" victory over the Soviet Union, TeamUSA.org re-created a story from the perspective of that night. Visit Twitter.com/USOlympic to view Team USA’s live tweets of the game on its 35th anniversary.

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – It was an upset that makes the miracle of the ’69 Mets seem like mere routine.

Team USA rallied three times from a one-goal deficit — twice on tallies by Mark Johnson — and stunned the overwhelmingly favored Soviet Union 4-3 Friday night to move within one victory of the Olympic ice hockey gold medal in Lake Placid, New York.

Captain Mike Eruzione put Team USA ahead for the first time midway through the third period, and goalie Jim Craig did the rest. He thwarted a veteran professional Soviet squad that had only lost once in its last 29 games in the Olympic Winter Games and had beaten the same largely collegiate American team 10-3 in an exhibition 12 days earlier at Madison Square Garden.

The victory sends Team USA to a final game Sunday against Finland, where a victory would ensure its first gold medal since it won the title in Squaw Valley, California, in 1960.

“Right now, I’m a little confused, everything happened so fast,” Eruzione said. “I don’t think you can put into words what this means. But I know this, we can’t forget we’ve got one game left. I’ll be damned if I’ll let them get lazy now. We’re one more day away from a dream.”

The Soviets dominated the Americans for much of the game, outshooting them in every period and 39-16 overall.

Craig dived, leaped and scrambled to repeatedly grab, block and turn aside shots, particularly in the second and third periods when Team USA struggled to keep up. He made a lunging skate save with 8:15 remaining to block Vladimir Golikov’s backhander and then made another save on Vladimir Petrov with just under a minute to go.

As it had in four of its five first-round games, Team USA fell behind early. The Soviet Union went ahead at 9:12 of the first period when Buzz Schneider lost control of the puck skating out from behind his own net.

Alexei Kasatonov took a slap shot from the point that Vladimir Krutov deflected past Craig.

Schneider atoned for his miscue less than five minutes later, skating down the left wing and blasting a slap shot past Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak.

The Soviets reclaimed the lead with 2:26 remaining in the period with a rush into the USA zone. Sergei Makarov took a drop pass from Golikov, had his initial shot blocked in front but corralled it in the slot and easily beat Craig with a second wrist attempt.

Having outshot Team USA 18-7, the Soviets looked set to take the lead into the intermission. But with time running out, Dave Christian took a slap shot from the other side of the red line that Tretiak easily saved. However, he gave up a rebound.

Johnson pounced, sprinting between slow reacting defensemen Vasili Pervukhin and Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, then skating left and around Tretiak to slip the puck into the net with one second remaining.

After protesting that time had expired, Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov replaced Tretiak, who has been the Soviet Union’s starting goalkeeper for eight years, with backup Vladimir Myshkin.

Myshkin was sent in for the ensuing face off to finish the period and then remained in the game.

The Soviets dominated the second period and went ahead a third time after only 2:18 when Alexander Maltsev skated in alone on Craig, went around him to his right and scored.

They allowed Team USA only two shots in the period and appeared to be in control.

But midway through the third period, Dave Silk muscled off a check to steer the puck toward the net. It caromed off the skate of Soviet defenseman Sergei Starikov and onto the stick of Johnson, who wristed it between Myshkin’s legs for the equalizing goal.

Eighty-one seconds later Eruzione put the Americans ahead and sent the capacity crowd of 7,700 at the Olympic Fieldhouse into delirium.

A bounding, loose puck came off the left boards. Eruzione skated in over the blue line and settled it at the top of the slot. Sliding to the right, he let fly with a wrist shot that beat Myshkin.

“John Harrington worked the puck into the corner to (Mark) Pavelich,” Eruzione said. “Pavelich just tipped into the middle. I got it at the blue line and I think their defenseman was screening the goalie. I don’t think (Myshkin) saw it.”

With the crowd repeatedly chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A”, Craig continued his MVP performance to the end.

“He was a tower of strength for us, no question,” U.S. coach Herb Brooks said. “For an American team to be successful, the catalyst has to be the goalkeeper.”

With international tensions high over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and President Carter threatening to boycott the summer Games in Moscow later this year, Cold War emotions were clearly evident.

“We beat the Russians,” Eruzione said. “We beat the Russians.”

Quotes from the Globe and Mail, New York Times, and Washington Post were used in this story. Brian Trusdell is a writer from New Jersey who wrote an educational children’s book about the Miracle on Ice. Trusdell has covered four FIFA World Cups and six Olympic Games during his more than 30 years as a sportswriter, mostly with the Associated Press and Bloomberg News. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.