Twenty years before the now famous "Miracle on Ice" team of 1980, which brought home the gold medal in Lake Placid, N.Y., there was another team making history on the opposite coast of the country in Squaw Valley, Calif. They were the underdog 1960 U.S. Men's Olympic Hockey Team, which upset some of the biggest hockey powers in the world that February to give America its first taste of Olympic hockey glory.
The U.S. held its preliminary tryout camps at Williams Arena, on the University of Minnesota campus. After finalizing the roster, the team spent several months playing exhibition games against teams from all over the world.
The Olympic tournament got underway with the Russians and the Canadians being the overwhelming favorites to win gold. The Americans were not even expected to get past the first couple rounds. The U.S., under the direction of coach Jack Riley, came out swinging though and thanks to five John Mayasich goals, they defeated Australia 12-1, and Czechoslovakia 7-5 to advance into the medal rounds. Then, after beating the favored Swedes 6-3, thanks to Roger Christian's hat trick and his brother Billy's three assists, the U.S. went on to beat Germany, 9-1, setting the stage for a showdown with the mighty Canadians. There, behind goalie Jack McCartan's 39 saves, the U.S. beat Team Canada 2-1.
On Feb. 27, in front of some 10,000 spectators in Blyth Arena, the U.S. team squared off against the Soviet team. The game was back and forth, and featured a lot of quick skating and hard hitting. Then, down 2-1 in the second, Billy Christian took over the game.
After scoring the game-tying goal late in the second, Billy teamed up with his two wing-mates, brother Roger and Tommy Williams of Duluth, to beat Russian goalie Nikolai Puchkov on a breakaway wrister at 14:59 of the third. McCartan stood strong the rest of the game and the U.S. held on to advance to the gold medal game against the Czechs.
The U.S., who had earlier beaten the Czechs, weren't going to take anything for granted. Despite the Americans being noticeably fatigued, they came out strong and found themselves tied at three goals each after the first period. The squad fell behind 4-3 after two periods, but then, behind Roger Christian, roared back for what would prove to be one of the greatest third periods of Olympic history. Roger struck first at 5:50, followed by Harvard's Bill Cleary. From there it was all red, white and blue.
Roger added two more goals that final period to give the U.S. a stunning 9-4 win and the country's first Olympic gold medal. Bill Cleary led Team USA in scoring with 12 points and his brother Bob added eight of his own. Roger and Billy Christian had nine points each.