Minnesota Hockey Magazine

Minnesota connections lead team USA to first round bye

Phil Kessel's pure hat trick leads team USA to win.

Phil Kessel’s pure hat trick leads team USA to win.

Led by former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher star Phil Kessel and his natural hat trick, Team USA bolted to a 3-0 lead, cruising on to an efficient 5-1 win over Slovenia.  With the win, Team USA ended pool play with a perfect 3-0 record, giving them a bye as the second seed and an automatic bid in the quarter finals of the tournament. 

Minnesotan’s continued to play a major role in the team’s success.  One day after Warroad star T.J. Oshie’s four shootout goal performance, Minnesotan ties followed with connections to to all five goals. 

Robbinsdale native Blake Wheeler followed  up Kessel’s

photo credit USA Hockey

St. Paul’s Ryan McDonagh
photo credit USA Hockey

hat trick with a great individual play that led to the fourth goal.  Wheeler started with the puck behind the Slovenia net, and using his speed, skated around the entire zone before stopping and needling a pass from the deep corner to the opposite face off dot to Ryan McDonagh.

photo credit USA Hockey

Blake Wheeler
photo credit USA Hockey

  The former St. Paul Cretin Derham Hall’s star sent a laser like shot over the left shoulder scoring his first career goal.

David Backes, whose Spring Lake Park high school jersey has been retired, then followed that up with the team’s fifth goal.  His skate to stick tip off a Ryan Callahan pass at the goal mouth found the back of the net.  Slovenia broke Ryan Miller’s attempt at a shut out in the last minute making the score 5-1. 

As the seconded seeded team behind Sweden, Team USA now gets to wait to see who will be the winner of the Czech /Slovakia game in the single elimination phase of the tournament.  These two teams have had a strong rivalry that is personal and with the history of the two nations, this should bode well for Team USA.  The team will play next on Wednesday against the winner of Tuesday’s elimination game.