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The nine teams contesting the 1960 Olympic tournament were drawn into three pools in the first round, with the top two sides in each section advancing to the six-team round-robin medal group. The hosts sprang a surprise in their opening match in Pool C, beating the fancied Czechoslovaks 7-5. The Americans followed up with a 12-1 demolition of Australia to top their pool. Meanwhile, Canada edged Pool A courtesy of a 5-2 victory over the Swedes, while USSR also went undefeated in winning Pool B.
The USA maintained their sparkling form in the medal round, seeing off Sweden 6-3 and Germany 9-1 before again putting the Czechoslovaks to the sword, this time 9-5. However, with Canada and the USSR standing in their path, a shock gold medal still looked a long way off. Watched by a crowd of 8,500 and a TV audience of millions, the match between the USA and their northern neighbours was a tight affair.
Robert “Bill” Cleary put the hosts ahead in the first period from a John Mayasich assist, with Paul Johnson doubling the lead on 14 minutes. Though the Canadians pulled a goal back in the third period through James Connelly, they could not get back on level terms, thanks in no small part to the sterling efforts of US goaltender John McCarten, who pulled off a total of 39 saves.