Sochi 2014: Phil Kessel's Hat Trick Lifts US Men's Hockey Over Slovenia

Sochi 2014: Phil Kessel's Hat Trick Lifts US Men's Hockey Over Slovenia

The US men’s hockey team earned an automatic spot in the quarterfinals with a 5-1 victory over Slovenia.

Phil Kessel is the first American in over a decade to score a hat trick in the Olympics and Joe Pavelski assisted on them. He scored his first goal only 1:04 into the game and another one at 4:33, giving the US an easy 2-0 lead. The US had control, but Slovenia stayed in the game in the first and had 7 shots on goal. America had eight.

Slovenia slowed down in the second. Kessel scored his third goal at 11:05 and Ryan McDonaugh scored a little over a minute later at 12:17. Slovenia had two power plays, but was not able to capitalize on the opportunity. They were out shot 11-4 in the period.

David Backes made it 5-0 for America only 3:26 into the third period and it appeared goalie Ryan Miller would gain a shutout. But with only 18 seconds left Marcel Rodman scored for Slovenia. Once again, they applied pressure to America and were only outshot 9-7.

Regardless of the score, Slovenia deserves a lot of credit. They were only weak in the second period and had many opportunities to score on Miller. The small country already exceeded hopes in the Olympics and will play Austria in the qualification round.

America swept Group A and stand at 3-0. On Saturday, they defeated Russia in front of President Vladimir Putin in a dramatic shootout. They have a bye past the qualification round and stand in third place. But if the Finland vs. Canada game goes into overtime they will bump up to second.