WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – The U.S. hockey team held on for a 3-2 Olympic semifinals victory against Russia on Friday — 22 years to the day after their famous "Miracle on Ice" game in 1980.
For two periods, this sequel didn't nearly live up to the original. Then, in a frantic and memorable ending, it almost seemed like Lake Placid all over again, with the Russians trying desperately to rally against the Americans.
The U.S. victory followed threats by the Russians to sit out the game over alleged bias against its athletes in a variety of Olympic events: figure skating, freestyle aerials and hockey. The Russians backed off those threats Friday.
Now comes the game that all North America wanted — Canada's top NHL players against America's for the Olympic gold medal on Sunday. It is the first time the United States has gained the gold medal game since 1980, when it beat Finland.
Coached by Herb Brooks, just as they were in 1980, the Americans steamrolled to a 3-0 lead with goals by Bill Guerin, Scott Young and Phil Housley. But all that changed in less than four minutes.
Russia, with arguably the fastest and most skilled forwards in the Olympics, turned what seemed a rout into a tense, unforgettable struggle that greatly resembled the Soviets' desperation in Lake Placid.
U.S. goalie Mike Richter, idle for long stretches of the first two periods and perhaps rusty because of it, suddenly came under considerable pressure after Alexei Kovalev scored only 11 seconds into the third period, and Vladimir Malakhov scored 3:10 later.
Suddenly, that safe 3-0 lead was 3-2, and Richter had to make key save after key save to preserve it, once turning aside Sergei Samsonov on one side of the net, then, turning while screened on all sides, Alexei Yashin on the other.
In the 1980 game, the United States took a 4-3 lead on Mike Eruzione's goal, then held off a similar Soviet flurry in the closing minutes.