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Kessel leads USA womens hockey team after returning from injury
2014 Winter Olympics
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SOCHI, Russia — Amanda Kessel doesn’t need a camera for a selfie.
The forward for the U.S. women’s hockey team scored her first Olympic goal virtually on her own, receiving the puck from a center-ice faceoff, skating over the blue line, passing the puck to herself off the boards, circling back in front of the net and stick-handling around the Swiss goalie for the score.
“I guess it’s an assist by the boards,” she said after the 9-0 victory over Switzerland on Monday that all-but clinched a spot in the semifinals for the Americans, the defending world champions and the 2010 silver medalists.
Kessel scored twice — and three other times had goals that were temporarily credited to her before being taken off the board or given to someone else. One time her name was announced but she touched the puck after it crossed the goal line; one time it was Kendall Coyne’s rebound that put the puck in the net; another time Kessel scored but video replay showed Coyne had scored a few minutes earlier but the referee missed it.
“It was her first one of the tournament,” Kessel said, “so I was happy for my linemate.”
The sister of NHL star and men’s Olympic hockey team forward Phil Kessel, Amanda Kessel was the nation’s leading scorer in college last season — the fourth player in NCAA history to reach 100 points — while leading Minnesota to its second straight national championship.
She postponed her senior year to play for Team USA, but she had hip surgery and missed the pre-Olympic tuneup tour. After taking part in a few scrimmages against boys teams during training camp in Massachusetts, coach Katey Stone pronounced her ready to go.
Kessel didn’t take long to have an impact in Sochi.
“She’s one of the best in the world,” said Finland goalie Noora Raty, who was Kessel’s teammate on the NCAA championship teams in Minnesota. “I told her before the game, ‘You can score against anyone else, but not me.’”
That’s pretty much how it worked out.
After being held without a point or assist in the United States’ opening game against Finland, she had two goals and two assists against Switzerland.
Kessel said she is still trying to get her conditioning back, but the games against the two European teams have given her a chance to do just that.
“I’m taking a little bit of shorter shifts,” she said. “You don’t see the game as well when you first come back, so the preliminaries have been really good for me.”
And for her team as well.
The U.S. has a 2-0 record and is virtually assured of a spot in the semifinals even before playing Canada on Wednesday in a North American grudge match. Canada is also unbeaten after two games, though it needed almost 50 minutes to break a scoreless tie against Finland before winning 3-0.
Switzerland lost for the second time and is headed for a spot in the quarterfinals against one of the top two teams in the bottom-tier. Finland and Switzerland will play in the other Group A game Wednesday for seeding.
Monique Lamoureux, Brianna Decker and Kessel scored in a span of 55 seconds midway through the first period to turn a scoreless tie into a 3-0 U.S. lead. It was the quickest three-goal sequence in Olympic history, and Kessel just needed eight seconds after the center-ice faceoff following Decker’s goal to add one of her own.
She was around the net twice more when goals were scored, settling for assists after being announced as the scorer.
Kessel didn’t mind, and that’s one more reason coach Katey Stone is glad to have her on the team.
“You love to coach these kids. They’re unbelievably selfless,” Stone said. “It’s just a testament to them: It doesn’t matter who puts the puck in the net, it’s making sure that we recognize the effort all the way around.”