Ice hockey: Kessel powers U.S. to win over Slovenia

Sun Feb 16, 2014 11:15am EST
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By Frank Pingue

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Phil Kessel took a minute to open the scoring and went on to record a natural hat-trick as the United States beat Slovenia 5-1 on Sunday to secure a bye into the quarter-finals of the men's ice hockey tournament at the Sochi Games.

Kessel opened the scoring 63 seconds into the game when he sped into the Slovenian zone and used a nifty deke to beat the defenseman before sliding it home.

He added another a little over three minutes later when he swatted a Joe Pavelski pass from behind the goal line out of mid-air and into the Slovenian net.

Kessel scored a third consecutive goal to complete a natural hat trick when he pounced on a rebound near the Slovenian crease just past the game's midway point.

"I'm playing with some great players who help you along," Kessel told reporters. "But it's not about me it's about the win. We can still improve more and we have to get a lot better."

Ryan McDonagh and David Backes also scored for the United States to squash any hopes of a comeback by a Slovenian team making their first appearance in an Olympic men's competition.

The win concluded the three-game preliminary round for the undefeated United States, who advance to the quarter-finals by virtue of winning Group A.

Slovenia, who spoiled U.S. netminder Ryan Miller's shutout bid when Marcel Rodman scored with 18 seconds left, will play a qualification game on Tuesday against an as-yet undetermined opponents with a berth in the quarter-finals on the line.   Continued...

Team USA's Phil Kessel is congratulated by teammate Joe Pavelski after scoring on Slovenia during the first period of their men's preliminary round ice hockey game at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 16, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder