MANKATO, Minn. — On Thursday evening, six members of the Miracle on Ice 1980 Olympic hockey team gathered together at the Civic Center in an intimate event to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the greatest upset in sports history.
The gathering was a fundraiser for the Minnesota State women’s hockey team, which is coached by one of the Miracle men, John Harrington.
One of the others on the panel was Mark Johnson, who coaches the Wisconsin women’s hockey team. His Badgers were in Mankato to play Harrington’s Mavericks in a WCHA series.
The Olympians, who also included Bill Baker, Dave Christian, Mike Ramsey and Buzz Schneider, delighted fans as they discussed their entire ordeal — from the roster selection the summer before to the 61-game pre-Olympic schedule to the shocking win over the mighty Soviet Union and gold-medal victory two days after that.
The day after the “Remember the Miracle” event, the Mavericks hosted the No. 1-ranked Badgers and were predictably overmatched.
It might not have been like Team USA losing to the Soviets 10-3 in New York’s Madison Square Garden a week before the Olympics, but it was fairly one-sided.
Wisconsin outshot Minnesota State 37-12 and won 5-1 for its 28th consecutive victory in the series, dating back to the 2014 WCHA playoffs when MSU forced a third game in the best-of-three series thanks to a 51-save shutout by Danielle Butters.
On Saturday afternoon, the teams met again, and the shots were similar with Wisconsin firing 36 times on net to Minnesota State’s 11. However, the result was much different.
It might not have been a miracle, but it was nonetheless stunning, as the Mavericks upset the defending national champions 3-1.
Minnesota State scored on two of its first three — only three — shots in the first period, getting goals from a pair of defenders, freshman Charlotte Akervik and junior Tristen Truax. Freshman goaltender Calla Frank stopped 15 shots in the period.
Fifth-year senior Emily Antony made it 3-0 in the second period, finishing off a nifty 2-on-1 rush with freshman Kelsey King. Frank turned away nine more shots in the middle frame.
“Having that lead and playing with it, I think we gained confidence from that,” Harrington said.
Frank made 11 saves in the third period, allowing only a 5-on-3 power-play goal with 4:15 remaining in the game.
There was more than enough time remaining for the nation’s highest-scoring team to flip the switch. But the Mavericks didn’t panic as they preserved their lead, even with 1:44 left on Wisconsin’s remaining power-play and, after that, a major penalty called after official review that put them back on the penalty kill for the game’s final 2:19.
The Badgers pulled their goalie for a 6-on-4 attack over those last 139 seconds.
Frank made three saves, and Claire Butorac blocked a shot while three other Wisconsin shots went wide.
The Minnesota State bench got louder and louder as each second ticked away. Players shouted, screamed and banged their sticks on the wall. When the final horn sounded, they leaped over the boards and celebrated as if they just won a championship of some kind.
There was another group hug at center ice after the postgame handshake with the Badgers, followed by plenty of screaming, singing and dancing in the locker room.
“We had to drag Coach (Harrington) in there to dance,” Truax said, “but he did it.”
Minnesota State has 11 victories, the most in Harrington’s five seasons and the most since the 13 the 2013-14 team, the one that previously upset Wisconsin, won.
The Mavericks have four games remaining in the regular season, two at home this weekend against No. 9 Minnesota Duluth and two at No. 4 Minnesota the following weekend.
Minnesota State hasn’t beaten Minnesota since the 2006-07 season, going winless in the last 57 meetings. Since a tie in the 2009-10 season, the Mavericks have lost 46 straight in the series.
“This was my first win against (Wisconsin),” Antony said. “I haven’t beaten the Gophers yet.”
It might not take a miracle, but it probably will take another near-perfect effort by an improving program.