Team USA has definitely proved that they are here to play as they have secured the top spot in Group A with a 5-1 win over Team Slovenia at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel cemented his place as Top Goal Scorer of today’s encounter with a natural hat trick to get the party started for Team USA.
The action kicked off at just 1:04 into the game when Kessel would find his way past Slovenian goaltender Luka Gracnar with the assist from San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski, giving Team USA the early lead. As I said before, the scoring parade didn’t end there for the young winger.
Just three and a half minutes later, Kessel would strike again, once again with the help of Pavelski and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik putting in the second piece of the puzzle for Team USA.
Slovenia would try to fight back as the clock expired on the first period, but it was just not meant to be.
The encounter would just pass the halfway period when Kessel would complete his natural hat trick with a goal at 11:05 in the second with the assists from Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk and Pavelski. This is Pavelski’s third point of the night, assisting on all three of Kessel’s goals.
That would prove to be the final goal of the night for Kessel, but certainly not the last for Team USA.
Just over a minute later, the US would strike once again with a goal from New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. The assists on the McDonagh goal were from Winnipeg Jets right wing Blake Wheeler and the game winning goal scorer from yesterday’s shootout win over Team Russia, St. Louis Blues center T.J. Oshie.
When the buzzer would sound on the second period, Team USA would have a resounding 4-0 lead on Team Slovenia.
The third period would be much of the same. Team USA wasted no time in putting the proverbial nail in the coffin early in the period.
At 3:26 in the third period, St. Louis Blues captain David Backes would find the back of the net with the assists from New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan and Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown.
Unfortunately for Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, his hopes of an Olympic shutout were dashed in the final seconds of the third period.
With just 18 seconds left in the game, Slovenian forward Marcel Rodman would find his way past Miller with the assists from Rodman’s brother David Rodman and Jan Urbas. Unfortunately for the Slovenians, with just 18 seconds left on the clock, it was too little, too late to stage a comeback.
Team USA would rout Team Slovenia 5-1 and take the top spot in Group A.
Thanks to them earning the top spot in the group, Team USA has earned a bye in the Qualification Round which will take place on Tuesday, February 18th. Team USA will then have to face the winner of a contest between the 7th seed Team Czech Republic and the 10th seed Team Slovakia.
Who do you see making a mad dash for the podium this year? Which player has been the standout so far in Olympic competition? Let us know what you think in the comments below.