- Women's Hockey
Amanda Kessel leads U.S. hockey
SOCHI, Russia – Three times, it appeared Amanda Kessel had her hat trick.
Three times, she was denied by changes in the scoring – proper changes, by the way.
Not that the Madison, Wis., native was complaining, not after getting four points (two goals, two assists) in the U.S. women’s hockey team’s dominating 9-0 victory over Switzerland. The win set up Wednesday’s much anticipated preliminary-round game between the U.S. and Canada, although the two will almost surely meet in the gold medal game next week.
“I don’t think I’ve scored an international hat trick before, so that’s a bit disappointing,’’ Kessel said. “Maybe in the next match (against Canada). But it doesn’t matter to me as long as we get the puck in the net.
“We’re scoring goals and it’s very hard for anyone to stay with us. We keep winning and we rely on our speed. We’ve had a couple of good games and we go from there.’’
Kessel and her linemates Kendall Coyne and Brianna Decker combined for 10 points on Monday. The Americans out-shot the Swiss 53-10, and none of those 10 shots rated as being even mildly challenging. The Swiss had a difficult time simply getting out of their own end, earning wild cheers from the crowd for the simple act of crossing the American blue line with puck possession.
“We sucked all the energy out of the other team,’’ Kessel said. “You just keep pounding them and pounding them, it’s hard for them to respond.’’
Kessel is best known for being the sister of Phil Kessel, the Toronto Maple Leafs star and Olympian, but Amanda wouldn’t mind grabbing a slice of the Olympic spotlight for herself. She is markedly different from her taciturn, media-shy brother, an ebullient presence who is always ready to talk.
To watch the two of them play the game, though, is to marvel at genetics. They play the same style, both strong on their skates, both snipers around the net.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Through the lens: Amanda Kessel
“A lot of people say we look a lot alike on the ice; I always wondered how that’s happened. It has to be genetics,’’ Kessel said last week. “We skate pretty similar. But I don’t have quite the same release as him.’’
Kessel, 22, scored 97 goals in 114 games at the University of Minnesota while helping her team win back-to-back NCAA titles. She also earned the 2013 Patty Kazmaier Award for being the top collegiate player in the nation.
She is universally recognized as one of the finest female players in the world, but it’s here at the Olympics, on the globe’s biggest stage, where she figures to make an international name for herself.
Who knows? Maybe Phil will end up being known as “Amanda’s brother.”
“Amanda has so much skill,’’ linemate Brianna Decker said. “She can drive to the net and she did that well (Monday). She was just creating havoc. She has great eyes out there and she moved the puck so well. She played a great game.’’
On the third goal of the game, Kessel took possession in her own end, banked the puck off the sideboards to herself, motored on down the off wing, then waited out Swiss goaltender Florence Schelling before scoring.
It was a wonderful piece of improvisation.
And it’s why Kessel is a central part of the American effort to knock off Canada.
Speaking of the Canadians…
It happens here Wednesday, although there’s nothing much on the line in the preliminary-round matchup. But given the state of the game’s best rivalry, it’s fair to assume neither side will hold anything back.
“Can’t wait,’’ Kessel said.
The two teams have played seven times this year; Canada won the first three, the U.S. the next four.
“It’s been about a month since we’ve played them, so it’ll be kind of fun to see them early on and see what they have,’’ Kessel said. “It’s just so awesome to play them. The competition brings out everybody’s best.’’