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Originally published Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 8:01 PM

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Phil Kessel’s hat trick keeps Americans undefeated

Showing few signs of a letdown after its emotional victory over Russia, the U.S. men’s hockey team on Sunday rode a hat trick from Phil Kessel to a 5-1 victory over Slovenia at Shayba Arena in its final preliminary-round game.


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SOCHI, Russia — Showing few signs of a letdown after its emotional victory over Russia, the U.S. men’s hockey team Sunday rode a hat trick from Phil Kessel to a 5-1 victory over Slovenia at Shayba Arena in its final preliminary-round game.

Ryan Miller started in goal while Jonathan Quick got a day off. Miller stopped 17 shots from the plucky but undersized and overwhelmed Slovenians until Marcel Rodman scored on a long blast with 17.6 seconds left in the third period.

With only one NHL player in its lineup — Kings center Anze Kopitar — Slovenia did well to get this far and win a game in its first Olympic tournament. Slovenia’s lone win came against Slovakia.

Team USA previously defeated Slovakia 7-1 and edged Russia 3-2 in an eight-round shootout to finish preliminary-round play with a 3-0 record.

Kessel became the first player on the U.S. men’s team to record a hat trick since John LeClair scored three goals against Finland in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Joe Pavelski assisted on all three.

The other U.S. goals were scored by Ryan McDonagh in the second period and David Backes early in the third. T.J. Oshie from Everett assisted on McDonagh’s goal.

In other games, Russia beat Slovakia 1-0 in a shootout, Canada beat Finland 2-1 in overtime and Austria beat Norway 3-1.

There are no U.S. medal contenders in the men’s speedskating 10,000 meters on Tuesday. The women’s 5,000 on Wednesday doesn’t have an American in the medal mix either.

The women’s 1,500 race Sunday presented the last realistic chance for the U.S. to win an individual medal in Sochi and salvage whatever’s left of a disastrous Olympics.

So Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe, ranked 1-2 in the world, did just what you’d expect a world-class U.S. skater to do here: They bombed.

Richardson was seventh in 1:57.60, Bowe was 14th in 1:58.31. Jilleanne Rookard, a third American skater, was 18th in 1:59.15.

Just as the U.S. has been very bad at these Games, the Netherlands has been very good. Jorien ter Mors set an Olympic record in 1:53.41, giving the Dutch an Olympic-record 16 speedskating medals.

Bowe and Richardson’s results are the latest setback for the 17 U.S. skaters who arrived on the heels of a prolific World Cup season that set high expectations for Sochi. Every day here has brought them closer to becoming the first U.S. speedskating team since 1984 to win no medals.

After swapping new suits for old suits, the results show the team is no closer to answering the question of what’s plaguing them. The reason remains a mystery.

“It could have been a loss of momentum after a few under-performances,” U.S. national coach Ryan Shimabukuro said, noting it may “just be the perfect storm right now that’s going the other way for us.”

Ter Mors’ victory gave the Dutch its third sweep in speedskating in Sochi (in fact, the Netherlands finished 1-4 Sunday), Ireen Wust winning silver and Lotte van Beek taking the bronze.

OTHER EVENTS

• Sweden dominated the men’s 4-by-10 kilometer cross-country ski race. Russia was 27.3 seconds behind to take silver and France finished third, another 4.6 seconds back. Following up on a Swedish victory in the women’s relay, Sweden became the first country to win both cross-country relays in the same Olympics since the Soviet Union in 1972.

For archrival Norway, it was another disastrous day. Once again the Norwegians failed to find the proper wax setup in the warm conditions and finished fourth, more than a minute behind their Scandinavian neighbor. Like the Norwegian women who finished fifth a day earlier, the men blamed their skis for the poor result.

• American Lindsey Jacobellis was far ahead of the other five riders in her snowboardcross semifinal heat when she misjudged the second-to-last turn, flew over a jump too fast, lost her balance and skidded onto her back. It was Jacobellis’ third consecutive hard luck loss in the Olympics in a sport she has dominated for a decade. Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic won gold.

Alexander Zubkov of Russia set a track record on his first run in two-man bobsled, then opened some distance on the rest of the field with a second crisp, clean trip down his home track to open a commanding lead at the halfway point over Switzerland’s Beat Hefti and Steven Holcomb of the United States.



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