Olympics-Ice hockey-Russia v U.S. and the 'Forgotten Miracle' of 1960

Reuters

By Julian Linden

SOCHI, Russia, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Long before the Miracle On Ice, another United States team pulled off another stunning Olympic upset over the Soviet Union en route to winning gold on home ice.

But while the American victory over the Soviets at Lake Placid in 1980 is regarded as the sport's ultimate upset and has been immortalised on film, the game 20 years earlier was in some ways just as remarkable and, partly due to its comparatively limited worldwide audience, has been dubbed the "Forgotten Miracle."

Despite having won the silver medal in 1952 and 1956, the United States were given no real hope of winning the gold when the Winter Olympics were held at Squaw Valley in California.

Just as they did in 1980, they went into the Games with a team made up of amateur college players while the Soviets were a seemingly unstoppable force. They had won the gold medal at the previous Olympics and had not lost an international tournament in the intervening years.

Canada, who won the gold in six of the first seven Winter Olympic competitions, were also a formidable opponent, as were Czechoslovakia.

The Americans won their opening game against Czechoslovakia 7-5 after trailing 4-2 at the end of the second period then thrashed Australia 12-1 to qualify for the medal round, which featured six teams.

They easily won their next two games, against Sweden and Germany, but then faced the imposing job of beating Canada, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia in their last three games to take the gold.

It seemed an impossible task but the dream started to come alive when they squeaked past Canada 2-1. Two days later, they played the mighty Soviets.

Although the Americans scored first, they were trailing 2-1 at the end of the first period but scored a goal in each of the remaining two periods to seal a 3-2 win.

Their final game against the Czechs was scheduled for 8am the following day and after two periods, the Americans trailed 4-3. But they woke up in the nick of time, banging in six unanswered goals in the last period to become the first United States team to win the gold.

Canada took the silver and the USSR - who went on to win six of the next seven golds, took the bronze in a tournament that resonated loud when the Games returned to the U.S. 20 years later.

One of the leading players on the 1960 United States team was Bill Christian, who was later inducted into the Ice Hockey Hall of Fame. His son David also won a gold medal, on the 1980 team.

Herb Brooks was selected for the 1960 team but was dropped a week before the Games. Two decades later, he coached the Miracle On Ice team. (Editing by Mitch Phillips)

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