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Romania no match for Team USA in 1980

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Game 1 Review: USA 2, Sweden 2

Game 2 Review: USA 7, Czechoslovakia 3
Game 3 Review: USA 5, Norway 1

As current NHL stars compete in the 2010 Olympics at Vancouver, will be looking back to the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team and the role various Rangers Alumni played in capturing the gold medal. We continue this special series with a look back at Team USA's fourth game, vs. Romania on Feb. 18, 1980.

By Dan David,

Coming off his team's big tie with Sweden and routs of Czechoslovakia and Norway at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, U.S. head coach Herb Brooks continued to worry about a letdown that could not only result in an upset loss but might even keep the Americans out of the upcoming medal round.

Team USA forward Buzz Schneider scored two goals in the Americans' 7-2 rout of Romania.
But thirty years ago today, as Team USA prepared to face Romania in the fourth of its five Blue Division round-robin games on Feb. 18, 1980, there was really no cause for concern.

Romania, making only its fourth Olympic hockey appearance in 1980, was hardly a threat. Although they had finished seventh at the 1976 Innsbruck Games, the Romanians had limited talent, and their players came from one of the weaker national leagues in Europe. In fact, after the 1980 Games, Romania would never qualify for Olympic hockey again.

Likely influenced by their Communist ties to the Soviet Union, Romanians began to embrace hockey during the height of the Cold War and made their Olympic debut in 1964. The country of roughly 20 million people was dominated by its dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, and Olympic success was no doubt a matter of pride.

Unfortunately for Romanians, their small pool of talent was in no position to compete with any of the major hockey powers. They would finish a somewhat respectable ninth at Lake Placid, but when they took the ice against Team USA, they hardly looked like a force, even though 10 of their 20 players had previous Olympic experience from the 1976 Games.

An article in The New York Times mentioned that the Romanian players looked "somewhat like a softball team" in their bright yellow jerseys and blue pants with red and blue striping around the socks and bottoms of the jerseys. They didn't play much better than a softball squad, either, as Team USA would roll over them 7-2 to remain unbeaten with only one more round-robin game against New Jersey.

Even though Romania was hardly serious competition, U.S. hockey fans were already caught up in the fervor of the American hockey success, and they jam-packed the Olympic field house with an overflow crowd of 8,500. There were so many people in the building that ushers struggled to get everyone to their seats in time for the start of the game.

The Americans jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period behind the first of two goals by Buzz Schneider, the only member of Team USA who had also competed at Innsbruck, and Eric Strobel, the speedy 21-year-old forward who had played for Herb Brooks at the University of Minnesota. Schneider's goal was assisted by future Rangers star Mark Pavelich, who continued to make a name for himsel at Lake Placid.

Mark Wells made it 3-0 with the eventual game-winner early in the second period before Doru Tureanu, a 26-year-old who had been the 1978-79 Romanian league MVP with his team in Bucharest, beat U.S. goalie Jim Craig to cut the lead to 3-1. Schneider scored again after the Tureanu goal to restore a three-goal lead.

In the final period, Steve Christoff, Neal Broten and future Ranger Rob McClanahan all scored to turn the game into a laugher.

Team USA outshot Romania 51-21, as 27-year old goalie Valerian Netedu was forced to make 44 saves in defeat.

With two days remaining before their final round-robin game against West Germany, the U.S. was flying high. Brooks, however, continued to preach restraint and warned his players that the medal round was not certain without a win in the final Blue Division game.
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