40 years ago, the US beat the Soviets in the ‘Miracle on Ice’

FILE -In this Feb. 22, 1980 file photo, the U.S. hockey team pounces on goalie Jim Craig after a 4-3 victory against the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics, as a flag waves from the partisan Lake Placid, N.Y. crowd. (AP Photo, File)

(Gray News) Do you believe in miracles?

One of the greatest moments in American sports history happened Feb. 22, 1980, when the U.S. men’s hockey team led by coach Herb Brooks defeated the heavily-favored Soviet Union in the medal round of the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.

The Americans, who were made up of mostly amateur players, faced a Soviet side full of the country’s top stars. Not many gave the United States a chance, especially after a Feb. 9 exhibition where the Soviets won 10-3 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Both sides were unbeaten in their first five games heading to the medal round, and the highly-anticipated matchup got off to an even start, as the first period ended with both teams tied at two. The Soviets would take the lead in the second period, but the U.S. would take charge in the third period with two goals, including what proved to be the game-winner by Mike Eruzione halfway through the period. U.S. goalie Jim Craig wouldn’t allow another Soviet shot in and saved 36 of 39 attempts.

The game was broadcasted by ABC in primetime on tape delay, but word of the Americans’ victory on the radio led to a massive television audience to see the upset. The atmosphere in the arena was at a fever pitch as the game entered the final minute, and it concluded with play-by-play broadcaster Al Michaels giving his famous call still remembered to this day.

“Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

The game between the two world superpowers happened during a time of heightened tensions in the Cold War. After the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, President Jimmy Carter would announce in March the boycott of the U.S. Olympic Team at the 1980 Moscow Summer Games.

The U.S. hockey team had more work to do, as they took on Finland needing a win to ensure a gold medal. The U.S. would fall behind once again, but three third-period goals gave the Americans a 4-2 victory and the gold medal.

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