The United States men’s hockey team skated to a 5-1 victory over Slovenia today, thanks in large part to stellar play by Toronto Maple Leaf forward Phil Kessel.
USA Today reports Kessel, who won a silver medal with the 2010 US men’s hockey team, saying, “You just have to come over here and do the best you can to win.”
Kessel certainly did that, helping his team earn a bye to the quarterfinals.
His first goal came on his first shot at 1:04 of the first period. His second shot, about three and a half minutes later, also found the back of the net, to give the US men’s hockey team an early 2-0 lead. His third goal came at 12:17 of the second period, giving the United States men’s hockey team a 3-0 advantage over Slovenia. Kessel has a total of 7 points – 4 goals and 3 assists – in 2014 Sochi Olympics competition this year.
US mens hockey teammate Ryan McDonaugh lit the red light a minute later and David Backes added another goal in the third to lift the USA men’s team to a 5-0 lead. It looked as if goalie Ryan Miller – who won silver with Kessel in 2010 – would get a shutout in his first 2014 Sochi Olympics hockey start until Slovenia’s Marcel Rodman scored with 18 seconds remaining in the game.
Miller was giving starting net minder Jonathan Quick a planned breather. Quick is expected to be back between the pipes for the US men’s hockey team’s next game, the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
The score was lopsided, but most of the game was not. The United States men’s hockey team outshot Slovenia 8-7 in the first period, 11-4 in the second and 9-7 in the first.
Considering the fact that the US men’s hockey team is stacked with NHL talent, while Slovenia has just one NHL player – Anze Kopitar of the LA Kings – the Slovenian mens hockey team put up a solid showing. Slovenia lost its first game to Russia, 5-2, but hung with the powerhouse Russian team for the first two periods. Yesterday, they earned their first-ever Olympic men’s hockey win over heavily favored Slovakia, 3-1.
Slovenia has a population just over 2 million. There are seven hockey rinks and only one professional hockey club in the country. The Slovenian men’s team will face Austria in the qualifying round on Tuesday, with the winner advancing to play top-seeded Sweden.
The US men’s team’s next game – the quarter finals – will be against the winner of Tuesday’s game between the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The United States men’s hockey team enters the 2014 Sochi Olympics mens hockey semifinals as the second seed behind Sweden.
[Image Via sochi2014.com]