Feb. 17, 2014
SOCHI, Russia -- Former Gopher Phil Kessel tallied a natural hat trick on Sunday in the U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team's 5-1 victory over Slovenia in the preliminary round finale for Team USA.
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.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the win,” Kessel said. “We can still improve more, and we have to get a lot better.”
In three games so far in Sochi, Kessel leads all skaters with seven points (four goals, three assists). Kessel's sister, Amanda, leads all women's skaters at the Olympics with six points (three goals, three assists) with the U.S. women set for the gold-medal game once again.
Phil 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, Kessel scored his second goal of the game, whacking the puck out of mid-air into the goal from right in front. Kessel completed his natural hat trick by tapping in the rebound at 11:05 of the second stanza.
Former Gopher captain Blake Wheeler would add an assist on the U.S. team's fourth goal of the day.
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.
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The Maroon & Gold enter this weekend’s series with a 110-45-15 all-time record against Michigan State including a 45-27-8 mark on the road against the Spartans.
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The sophomore leads the Gophers with 20 points and nine goals this year while his 11 assists are tied for the team lead.