Team USA’s ascension to the top of the hockey world in 1980 was actually not “The Miracle on Ice.” While it was the Miracle that stunned the world, it was their victory two days later where, as legendary announcer Al Michaels called it, “the impossible dream comes true” – the Americans locked up Olympic Gold for only the second time in history, triumphing 4-2 over Finland to win the tournament and capture the International Hockey Lineal Championship.
Still coming off the high from their victory two nights prior, which suddenly put the eyes of a previously uninterested nation square on the Olympic Fieldhouse, Team USA came out firing on all cylinders to take an early lead. However, Finnish keeper Jorma Valtonen was looking to play spoiler, making early key saves and killing off an early penalty to hold the Americans scoreless. The Leijonat sucked the energy out of the rink midway through the first, when captain Jukka Porvari took a drop pass from Mikko Leinonen at the U.S. blueline, and was given a clear lane to blast a rocket past U.S. netminder Jim Craig for the 1-0 lead, which would hold into first intermission.
The building came alive early in the second, with a strong individual effort by Steve Christoff, with Mike Ramsey just stepping out of the penalty box after a successful kill, forcing a turnover in the Finnish zone and lifting a nifty backhander over Valtonen to tie the game at 1-1. However, it was the Leijonat again playing spoiler, this time just 1:51 later, with an open-in-front Leinonen deflecting a Hannu Haapalainen wrister past Craig and in on a power play, retaking the lead at 2-1, and holding the lead for the second straight intermission. The Americans, in need of a victory to clinch two points and a Gold Medal in the final round, were looking dangerously close to potentially still losing to the Soviet Union in the final medal standings.
But a determined squad, spurned by head coach Herb Brooks and captain Mike Eruzione, struck early in the third to once again tie the game, with Dave Christian drawing in the Finnish defence 2:25 into the final frame, leaving a streaking Phil Verchota open along the boards, who took Christian’s feed and wired a low shot past Valtonen on the far glove side, tying the game at 2-2. Team USA would take their first lead of the game 3:40 later, when Rob McClanahan, left unattended coming in from the far corner, managed to slide in the leading (and eventual game-winning) goal five-hole past a falling Valtonen to go ahead 3-2, sending the Fieldhouse into a frenzy, both inside and out.
It was the American defence, and the heroics of Craig, that would hold the lead, however, with the penalty kill unit successfully killing off three consecutive penalties following the McClanahan goal, and sealing the victory on the third and final kill, a Verchota roughing penalty with 4:15 remaining in the game. Forward Mark Johnson gained a lane to the Finnish net, and, fighting off multiple defenders, managed to put a backhand on Valtonen, which he was able to then recover his own rebound and knock it past Valtonen on the forehand with 3:35 to go, making the later USSR-Sweden tilt irrelevant for Gold, as the Americans locked up the medal on an unbelievable shorthanded effort, making the “impossible dream” in fact come true.
With the win, Team USA completed the “Miracle on Ice” started two days earlier in their stunning victory over the Soviet Union, unifying Olympic and IHLC titles for the first time since the 1960 Olympics – for more, check out the IHLC @ Olympics & Invitationals page. The Americans’ win was the second in their 10th IHLC reign, which would last until the 1981 World Championships the following April.
The USSR entered Lake Placid as IHLC champions, tallying lopsided wins over Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Finland and Canada en route to the medal round, before losing the IHLC to the Americans, who exited the Games with the IHLC in tow. This marked the first IHLC meeting between these nations since a pair of pre-Olympic exhibition games in January 1976, won by Finland by a combined score of 18-5.
04:54 – PEN – Koskinen, hooking
09:20 – GOAL – Porvari (Leinonen, Litma)
22:37 – PEN – Ramsey, roughing
24:39 – GOAL – Christoff
26:00 – PEN – Schneider, slashing
26:30 – PP GOAL – Leinonen (Haapalainen, Kiimalainen)
35:52 – PEN – Suoraniemi, delay of game
42:25 – GOAL – Verchota (Christian)
46:05 – GOAL – McClanahan (Johnson, Christian)
46:48 – PEN – Broten, hooking
48:54 – PEN – Christian, tripping
55:45 – PEN – Verchota, roughing
56:25 – SH GOAL – Johnson (Christoff)
W: Craig (21-23)
L: Valtonen (25-29)
SHOTS ON GOAL
14+8+7 = 29
7+6+10 = 23
Goaltenders: Jim Craig, Steve Janaszak. Defence: Bill Baker (A), Ken Morrow, Jack O’Callahan, Mike Ramsey, Bob Suter. Forwards: Neal Broten, Dave Christian, Steve Christoff, Mike Eruzione (C), John Harrington, Mark Johnson, Rob McClanahan, Mark Pavelich, Buzz Schneider, Dave Silk, Eric Strobel, Phil Verchota, Mark Wells.
Goaltenders: Antero Kivelä, Jorma Valtonen. Defence: Kari Eloranta, Hannu Haapalainen, Lasse Litma, Olli Saarinen, Seppo Suoraniemi. Forwards: Markku Hakulinen, Markku Kiimalainen, Jukka Koskilahti, Hannu Koskinen, Jari Kurri, Mikko Leinonen, Jarmo Mäkitalo, Esa Peltonen (A), Jukka Porvari (C), Timo Susi, Ismo Villa.