Russia and USA duel for ice hockey gold at Lausanne 2020

The Winter Youth Olympic Games stages the latest instalment of one of ice hockey's greatest rivalries

By Rory Jiwani ·

Fireworks are guaranteed when Russia and USA meet in ice hockey.

The Cold War, and the countries' respective superpower status in the East and the West, no doubt plays its part in the rivalry.

And while Russia - including the Soviet Union, Unified Team and Olympic Athletes from Russia - share the record tally of nine golds in Olympic men's competition with Canada, there is a special frisson when they face off against the USA.

After three comprehensive victories so far, Russia go into Wednesday's Winter Youth Olympic Games final as firm favourites with Matvei Michkov scoring seven goals.

But Isaac Howard has also found the net seven times at Lausanne 2020, and he will be hoping to lead USA to a famous win.

You can watch the clash live here on Olympic Channel at 15:00 CET and keep up to date with all the action from Lausanne on our live daily blog.

Russia celebrate after Vyacheslav Malov scores in the semi-final win over Finland (photo courtesy of OIS/Joe Toth)

USA aim for their own 'Miracle on Ice'

Those of an older vintage will remember the 'Miracle on Ice' when a USA team comprised largely of college students brought the Soviet Union's mighty Red Machine to a halt at the 1980 Games.

While the task facing the Americans inside the Vaudoise Arena is less daunting, the odds are certainly against them.

But they can take inspiration from what turned out to be the gold medal decider in Lake Placid.

The USSR had won gold at five of the previous six Games, and cruised through to the four-team final round with five victories out of five in Group A.

Backed by legendary goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, the Soviets had future NHL greats Slava Fetisov and Sergei Makarov among their leading lights on the ice.

In a warm-up meeting ahead of the Games, they had beaten USA 10-3 at Madison Square Garden.

Herb Brooks' mostly amateur roster had an average age of just 21 while the Red Machine's players were amateur in name only, given posts in the military or national infrastructure to play for their employers' teams.

Despite their obvious shortcomings, USA managed to reach the final four by winning four and tying one game with Sweden who progressed with the same record.

Finland, runners-up to the Soviet Union, completed the line-up.

With their group meetings carried forward, USA had to beat the Soviets in the final round opener to have any chance of gold.

USA goaltender Jim Craig guards his net in the 'Miracle on Ice' against Russia in 1980 at Lake Placid

The Soviets led 1-0 and 2-1 before a rare mistake from Tretiak allowed Mark Johnson to score on the rebound with one second left of the opening period.

Soviet head coach Viktor Tikhonov left players on both teams stunned as he then replaced his star goalie with Vladimir Myshkin.

The back-up looked assured in the second period and the Soviets were well on top with Aleksandr Maltsev's power play goal 2:18 in making it 3-2.

But with the crowd roaring on the rookies, Johnson scored again on a power play 8:39 into the third period to level the scores.

And then at the midpoint of the final period, captain Mike Eruzione hit a high shot past Myshkin to put USA ahead for the first time and spark delirium inside the Lake Placid Olympic Center.

For 10 minutes, the Soviet Union threw everything at the American youngsters.

For 10 minutes, they held firm with goalie Jim Craig in inspired form.

As the crowd counted down the last couple of seconds, ABC commentator Al Michaels famously said, "Do you believe in miracles? YES!"

The Soviet team stood in disbelief as the Americans celebrated one of the biggest upsets in sporting history.

USA went on to beat Finland 4-2 to secure gold with the USSR having to settle for silver despite thumping Sweden 9-2.

It remains the last time the United States claimed the Olympic men's ice hockey title.

The USA upset the Soviet Union to win men's ice hockey | Lake Placid 1980

The USA upsets the Soviet Union and wins gold during the hockey game known ...

Competing as Olympic Athletes from Russia at PyeongChang 2018, the Russian men's ice hockey team claimed their first gold since their 1992 triumph as the Unified Team.

In PyeongChang, they faced USA in the group stages and brushed them aside 4-0 thanks to two goals apiece from Nikolai Prokhorkin and future NHL Hall of Famer Ilya Kovalchuk.

OAR v USA (Group B) - Men's Ice Hockey | PyeongChang 2018 Replays

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Russia aim to keep up scoring record

The Russian Youth Olympians looked set for a stern test in their opener against Canada.

But they had all but settled the tie in the first period, leading 4-0 with Matvei Michkov scoring twice.

They ran out 6-2 winners and then proceeded to thump Denmark 9-0 with Michkov on target four times.

Finland were expected to provide stiffer opposition in the semi-finals but they were ruthlessly swatted aside 10-1.

Michkov only found the net once on this occasion but the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl prospect - who is already tipped to follow Alex Ovechkin as a number one NHL Draft pick - is the man to keep an eye on in the gold medal game.

But even if the United States keep him quiet, Russia have plenty of threats including captain Ivan Miroshnichenko and Ilya Kvochko.

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Matvei Michkov was born in 2004, six months after Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni ...

Howard just can't stop scoring

While Michkov is the star of the Russian side, Isaac Howard is the man blazing a trail for the US in Lausanne.

He scored hat tricks in both his side's opening games - the 7-5 win over Finland and the 8-2 decision over Switzerland.

The semi-final against North American neighbours was a much closer affair, but it was Howard who came up with the game-winning goal in the second period.

Jimmy Snuggerud, son of Olympic ice hockey player Dave, is a member of the American team.

He's enjoying the experience of playing in the tournament, and hopes to meet his current rivals again in the NHL some day.

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How to watch ice hockey final at Winter Youth Olympics

The men's ice hockey final at the Lausanne Winter Youth Olympics starts at 15:00 CET at the Vaudoise Arena.

It is live on the Olympic Channel site, on YouTube and on connected TV including Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV and Roku.

events

9 - 22 Jan

Lausanne 2020 | Youth Olympic Games

Switzerland