U.S. 7, Czechoslovakia 5
U.S. 12, Australia 1
U.S. 6, Sweden 3
U.S. 9, Germany 1
U.S. 2, Canada 1
U.S. 3, Soviet Union 2
U.S. 9, Czechoslovakia 4
Despite bringing home a silver medal from the Cortina d’Ampezzo 1956 Olympic Winter Games, the U.S. men’s ice hockey team did not have much momentum as it prepared for the Squaw Valley 1960 Olympic Winter Games on home ice.
A handful of players returned from the 1956 squad, but the Americans had a new coach, Jack Riley, and more than a few players were disgruntled when Riley added a few players to the roster only weeks before the Olympics, cutting others, including the popular Herb Brooks – who would go on to coach the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team.
The team’s No. 1 goalie, Jack McCartan, who had been serving in the U.S. Army, had been cut during training camp only to be brought back when his replacements struggled. McCartan might have been better known for his exploits on the baseball diamond, where he had been an All-American third baseman and helped the University of Minnesota win the 1956 NCAA championship.
Medal hopefuls? More like medal afterthoughts.
“Not many people gave us much of a chance,” said winger Bill Cleary, one of the three late additions to the team, which nearly prompted the rest of the team to boycott in protest. “I remember all the press, I think they were picking us to finish 12th, and there were only nine teams in the finals – that’s what they thought of us.”
The Americans started pool play with a 7-5 win over Czechoslovakia and a 12-1 trouncing of Australia to advance to the final round, which was a six-team round-robin.
Four more victories followed, including one-goal wins over gold medal favorites Canada (as McCartan made 38 saves) and the Soviet Union (with the brother tandem of Roger and Bill Christian combining for the tying and winning goals).
That set up a game the following morning against Czechoslovakia, where the Americans could claim gold with a victory. Trailing 4-3 entering the third period as fans crammed into every nook of the open-air Blyth Arena, Roger Christian scored three times in the third period as the Americans rallied for a 9-4 victory.
“We went undefeated and we beat teams that we don’t normally beat in international competition: the Canadians, the Russians, the Swedes, the Czechs,” McCartan said. “They were all tough games in past years. To go undefeated against that crowd was pretty good. To be the first to win a gold medal probably when you weren’t expected to do it, that was special.”