SOCHI, Russia – Phil Kessel (Madison, Wis./Toronto Maple Leafs) scored three goals, each assisted by Joe Pavelski (Plover, Wis./San Jose Sharks), to help the U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team defeat Slovenia, 5-1, in the preliminary round finale for Team USA at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The win clinches first place in Group A for Team USA (2-1-0-0, W-OTW-OTL-L) and a berth into the quarterfinals. Kessel’s hat trick was the first by a U.S. Olympian since John LeClair achieved the feat in 2002.
Kessel began the scoring with goals at 1:04 and 4:33 of the opening period. First, Kessel deked around a defenseman, outside to inside, to earn a clear path to the net and beat goaltender Luca Gracnar low. Then, Pavelski retrieved a dump-in along the goal line and flipped the puck across the crease for Kessel to whack out of mid-air into the goal.
The U.S. doubled its lead to 4-0 with goals at 11:05 and 12:17 of the second stanza. Kessel completed his natural hat trick by tapping in the rebound from Pavelski’s right point shot. Later, Blake Wheeler (Robbinsdale, Minn./Winnipeg Jets) circled the offensive zone before stopping in the left corner and finding Ryan McDonagh (St. Paul, Minn./New York Rangers) in the far circle. McDonagh quickly snapped the puck high over the goalie’s glove.
David Backes (Minneapolis, Minn./St. Louis Blues) made it 5-0 at 3:26 of the third period, crashing the net and deflecting a Ryan Callahan (Rochester, N.Y./New York Rangers) pass just inside the right post.
Slovenia spoiled goaltender Ryan Miller’s (East Lansing, Mich./Buffalo Sabres) shutout with 18 seconds left in the game when Marcel Rodman scored. Miller finished with 17 saves.
The U.S. returns to action Wednesday (Feb. 19) in the quarterfinal round. Team USA’s opponent and game time will be decided Tuesday (Feb. 18) at the conclusion of the qualification round.