Kessel nets hat-trick, lifts USA past Slovenia

Kessel nets hat-trick, lifts USA past Slovenia
February 16, 2014, 5:30 am
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Phil Kessel (81) celebrates with Joe Pavelski (8) after scoring his second goal in the first period vs. Slovenia. (USATSI)

NBCOlympics

The U.S. got a new hero today as Phil Kessel scored the country’s first Olympic hat trick in 12 years to lead the Americans to a 5-1 victory over Slovenia, completing a sweep of Group A in the process.

Kessel and Toronto teammate James van Riemsdyk have clicked in the Olympics, but it was the third member of that line — San Jose’s Joe Pavelski — that set up all three of Kessel’s goals today.

Kessel now has a tournament-leading seven points through three contests.

America also got goals from Ryan McDonagh and David Backes as an incredible 10 different American players have found the back of the net this tournament. That’s four more than each of Sweden and Russia.

With this victory, the Americans have earned a bye past the qualification round, but they will have to wait for the outcome of the Canada-Finland to determine their exact seed.

READ MORE AT NBCOlympics.com