SUPER SERIES '76-77: Team USSR
Clubs vs. WHA clubs
by Tom Hine
December 28, 1976
Harry Neale sipped a little tradition out of one
of the Soviet Union's favorite past times Monday
night, and the New England Whalers stole the thunder
out of the Russian's playbook after an unbelievable,
surprisingly convincing, 5-2 exhibition win at the
"I may have some vodka tonight, without any
mixer," Neale quipped
outside the jubilant Whalers locker room after a
win of such
magnitude most of the sellout crowd will never know.
This was the strongest Soviet Union hockey team
ever put on ice
and one which has a score to settle after last year's
Cup defeat let alone that national pride it hopes
to regain in
the next World championship.
It was a bitter blow for the Russians to watch
a bunch of Whalers,
hanging by a toenail in fourth place in the east
beat them convincingly.
"It was a great emotional effort that will
probably cost us
two points tomorrow night, but it was worth it tonight,"
Neale who boards a plane this morning for the Whalers
St. Paul this evening.
"I don't expect that we could play
with that emotional intensity
every night. But our players, I think, were as upset
as I was,
after last Monday's game with the Czechs."
"I wouldn't classify it as our usual
effort, but this wasn't
a usual opponent. Maybe that brings out the best
in us. We didn't
even talk about this game until today, but when
you can beat
a team like that, you've got to be pleased.
It was something
we can look back at and refer to in other games
that are big
ones. When we broke down (Cap) Raeder made the saves."
The Whalers hustling penalty killer Garry Swain
Most Valuable Player, for the winners, an honor
he and may others
Some in the crowd felt Raeder deserved it. ‘I
wouldn't want to
be the selector," said Neale. "Picking
one wouldn't be fair to
the other 18 guys who didn't get it."
That was the kind of effort the Whalers got and
needed for nothing
short of one of their most historical wins, not
just in their
first five years in the WHA, but in the next five
or ten as well.
When Swain deflected in Doug Roberts' bid
for the Whalers first
goal of night and a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute
of play, the
Civic Center exploded, but it's safe to say
most thought the
Whalers edge would never last.
The Whalers'lead did last, and their ranks
were given a big boost
when Swain, Tom Earl, Ron Busniuk and Gordie Roberts
so convincingly the Soviets first power play chance
of the night.
The Big Red Machine never got a chance to put it's
precision attack in motion.
Less than a minute later with seven still to play
in the first
period, the Whalers started to make believers of
a house full
of doubters when Alan Hangsleben left a perfect
drop pass for
Earl who bear the legendary Vladislav Tretiak almost
Alexsandr Malstev's deflection off Raeder
on a Soviet power play
exactly three minutes later made things closer but
only 53 seconds,
the Whalers got their two-goal lead back when Gary
connected with a difficult, high-tipped deflection
in the slot.
So awesome was the Whalers dominance in the first
held a 19-8 edge in shots on goal. That changed
a scoreless second period when the Soviets rang
up a 13-3 bulge
but came away frustratedly empty handed thanks to
the work of
the New England penalty killers.
The Whalers at one point stymied the Soviet power
play for 80
seconds with only three skaters of their own on
The Whalers killed another two-minute power play
at the end of
the second period and still one more early in the
the Russians beat Raeder for the second time and
last time on
Aleksandr Yakushev's connection off Vladimir
That 3-2 score appeared very much in danger of turning
with 15 minutes still to play, but the Whalers didn't
happen and their fans wouldn't let them. Jim
Troy called up from
Providence Monday like Earl was, hit George Lyle
from the right
boards for a doorstep connection with 13 minutes
to play and
after Raeders heroics, Lyle got his second of the
night on a
classic fake past Tretiak.
The Whalers may have been riding high all night
at a feverous
emotional pitch that undoubtedly leave them dragging
But the surprising thing Monday night, excluding
the final score,
was that the Soviets, not the Whalers, were the
tired ones when
it was all over.