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(Photo: Puck Daddy)

After Saturday’s incredibly thrilling, emotionally heavy, tightly played game against Russia, it seems natural to expect that the US might not have quite the same jump in their step. All doubts of that were removed when Phil Kessel scored the first goal just over a minute into the game, beating Slovenian backup goaltender Luka Gracnar. A couple minutes later, Kessel batted the puck in mid-air to double the lead. It was a great display of some excellent hand-eye coordination that started with a perfect Joe Pavelski pass.

Down but not out, Slovenia rebounded and started to take control of the first period, though they weren’t able to get on the board. The second period started off favorably for Slovenia, generating quality chances and spending extended amounts of time in the defensive zone, to no avail.

However, midway through the period, the US seemed to wake up and Kessel completed his natural hat trick by converting a rebound into an empty net. The Americans put together a second great shift in a row with Blake Wheeler taking the puck around the net and slipping a perfect cross-ice pass to Ryan McDonagh, who wristed it home.

In spite of the score, Slovenia kept pressing to break the shutout. They continued to play with confidence and assurance that a single goal was within reach. They nearly broke through on the power-play, but Ryan Miller made a great save with the butt end of his stick to keep the score 4-0.

Anze Kopitar did not return in the third period due to an illness, according to his father and the Slovenian head coach, Matjaz Kopitar.

Anze Kopitar later tweeted to his followers that he was feeling better and expects to play in Tuesday’s matchup versus Austria.

In spite of missing their best player, the Slovenian team pushed forward and did their best to hold the Americans to a 4 goal lead. Luka Gracnar stopped several quality chances from the US, but was unable to completely hold off David Backes as the puck bounced off his skate and into the net. They ruined Ryan Miller’s shutout with just 17.9 seconds left in the game thanks to some very sloppy play by Miller and his teammates. However, given that Slovenia had had their shutout ruined with just 17 seconds to go in the previous game against the Slovaks, it was a bit of poetic justice for the hardworking team from a small nation of roughly only two million people.

Next up for Slovenia: They’ll face Austria on Tuesday the 18th in a qualifying round to get into the quarterfinals.

Next up for the US: They get a short break until Wednesday when they face the winner of the Czech/Slovakia game in the quarterfinals.

Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, I sort of grew up an LA Kings fan by default. My dad was into hockey and then my brother got into hockey and I found that I sorta liked this hockey stuff. Go Kings.

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