The Summit in 1974


SUPER SERIES '76-77: Team USSR Clubs vs. WHA clubs

San Diego Union

by Wayne Lockwood
January 4, 1977
San Diego, CA

Napoleon got all the way to Moscow, Hitler made it to Stalingrad.

The San Diego Mariners advanced to a 2-0 lead.

They all suffered the same fate at the hands of the Russians.

Napoleon and Hitler ran afoul of winter and good old Slavic stubbornness.

The Mariners were done in by referee Viktor Dombrowski and what is very likely the best team in hockey as the Soviet National squad skated from behind to a 6-3 exhibition victory before a sell-out crowd of 13,029 last night at the Sports Arena.

Aided by two power play goals, the Soviets moved in front late in the second period and continued on to their fourth victory in five tries during a tour of World Hockey Association cities.

The Mariners had nothing but praise for the visitors' skill and nothing but complaints about the referee they brought with them.

Dombrowski ranked the No. 1 official in the Soviet Union, granted San Diego no power-play opportunities, and his countrymen three throughout the entertaining game.

The Russians cashed in one with 43 seconds left in the second period to take a 3-2 lead and used another to score what proved to be the winning goal at 2:05 of the third.

The Mariners, who played what might be their best game of the year, closed to within 4-3 with five minutes left, but suffered two late goals as they pressed for what would have been the equalizer.

Still, the Mariners could skate off with their heads up.

"I couldn't be more proud of my guys," said coach Ron Ingram.

"They did everything I wanted them to against just a super, super team. But we were playing seven men. You can quote me".

"That referee practiced with them today. He was out there skating around, joking with them. What is that?"

The Mariners complaints were not about penalties called against them, which they conceded were justified. They were about penalties not called against the Russians. "They should have had two penalties when we were ahead 2-0," felt Andre Lacroix, noting occasions on which Kevin Devine was tripped.

"If we had scored then, it might have been a different game."

It all depends on your point of view. "If the referee called every penalty, San Diego would have been playing a man short all night," suggested Soviet coach Boris Kulagin.

"Actually, it was better than I expected when I heard he was going to do the game," said Mariner defenseman Paul Shmyr, who opposed the Soviets in 1974.

"He was worse than that in Moscow."

"The worst thing is", noted John French, "when you yell at him he doesn't understand. It's very frustrating."

Still not even Dombrowski could take the bloom off what was simply a splendid hockey game.

"We'll never play a better team than that," felt French. "Holy bleep, are they good."

"I can't believe how much better they are than in 74", said Lacroix.

"They're outstanding fore-checkers now" noted Shmyr. "They didn't use to do that at all." They used to let you come right out of your end with no trouble."

And how much better was this juggernaut than the Mariners? At even strength, one goal.

The San Diegans, who came out flying, held the Soviets without a shot for nearly eight minutes and became only the second team on this tour to lead them when Don Burgess and Wayne Rivers scored first-period goals.

Burgess punched French's centering pass past star Russian goalie Vladislav Tretiak at 2:11 and Rivers on a fine individual effort broke away from a check and closed to beat Tretiak with a quick short-range flip late in the period.

But all this time, slowly but steadily the pattern of play was moving up the ice towards the Mariner's zone.

Although they came off losing, the Soviets wound up with a 7-5 edge in shots.

In the second period it was 17-6. Some fine work by starting goalie Ken Lockett and Ernie Wakely kept the home side ahead nonetheless. ("They have some beautiful goaltenders," observed Kulagin.)

The Soviets finally broke through at 4:29 of the second period when their longtime internationalist, Valeri Kharlamov, made a beautiful backhand pass from the face-off circle to send Boris Mikhailov in free to beat Lockett from short range.

The Spider took a 2-1 lead to the bench with him, however, and it appeared that the Mariners might protect it until the second intermission before they ran into some late misfortune.

With just over two and a half minutes left, defenseman Sergie Babinov picked off a Lacroix pass at the blueline and fed it to the Russians leading scorer Vladimir Petrov.

He, in turn, fed it ahead to Aleksandr Yakushev for a quick poke over Wakely's shoulder from point-blank range.

It was shortly after this that Dombrowski went into his act.

He called Lacroix for slashing ("I told my players that we would get a penalty in the last four minutes," Ingram noted. "That's the way they always call them.")

Just over a minute after Lacroix went off, Petrov put away a rebound of Vladimir Lutchenko's point blank shot and the visitors were in front to stay.

Early in the final period, Rivers went off for slashing and Vladimir Krikunov scored on a point blank shot to make it 4-2.

That was followed by a series of double penalties on both sides ("I predicted that too", said Ingram. "It makes the statistics look more even.")

By this time, Mariners owner Ray Kroc was on his feet shouting some rather indelicate things at any Russian in sight.

With the teams playing three a side, Shmyr led a two-on-one rush and tried to feed a backhand pass to Kevin Morrison. It hit a Russian defenseman in the skate and angled past Tretiak.

Suddenly, the Mariners had a chance to escape with at least a tie.

But Aleksandr Malstev snatched it away less than two minutes later with a quick backhand from 20 feet out, and then Mikhailov made sure with his second goal of the night – this one at the end of a picture three way passing play.

"I think we played well enough to tie or maybe even win,' said Ingram. "And that's taking nothing away from the Russians.

"We gave it a hell of an effort," said French. "We can't feel bad at all about that game."

"The Russians weren't saying much of anything.




The Summit in 1974