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Team USA sweeps Group A preliminaries; automatically advances to quarterfinals

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With a convincing 5-1 win over Slovenia on Sunday, Feb. 16, the USA Men’s Hockey Team finished the preliminary round of the 2014 Winter Olympic Tournament with two regulation wins and an overtime win for eight points in the standings, winning Group A and good for the second seed and a bye into the quarterfinals.

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In the first game against Slovakia on Thursday Feb. 13, Colorado Avalanche forward Paul Stastny had two goals and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel had a goal and two assists in a 7-1 win. Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick stopped 22 of 23 Slovakian shots in his first career Olympic game.

The second matchup was a lot more even on Saturday, Feb. 15, as was to be expected against an always strong Russian team. However, thanks to four shootout goals from St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie, Team USA defeated Russia 3-2 in what some called a Miracle on Ice rematch. The teams traded goals in the second and third period en route to a 2-2 tie after regulation, with Russia getting two goals from Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk and USA getting goals from Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler and San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski. Russia thought they took the lead in the final five minutes with a goal by Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin, but it was determined the net was displaced after being bumped by Jonathan Quick prior to the puck being shot and the goal was disallowed, leaving the game tied at two and leading to overtime, and ultimately a shootout. Quick stopped 29 of 31 Russian shots in regulation and overtime, and then stopped five of the Russian's eight shootout attempts in the overtime victory.

USA finished the preliminaries with a 5-1 win over Slovenia on Sunday, Feb. 16, with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel notching a natural hat trick with the first three goals of the game. Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller stopped 17 of 18 Slovenia shots, giving up one goal in the final 17 seconds of what was his first Olympic action of the tournament, four years removed from leading USA to a Silver Medal in the 2010 Olympics and earning Tournament MVP Honors.

Finishing the preliminary round with eight points with two regulation wins and an overtime win, USA earns the second seed in the tournament and automatically advances into the quarterfinals, and will face the winner of the qualifying round matchup between the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

With the way the standings are set, USA will not have face Sweden or Russia until the Gold Medal game. Also, unfortunately for those wanting a 2010 Gold Medal rematch, if USA is to face Canada in the tournament, it would only be in the semifinals and not in the Gold Medal game.

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