Kessel leads US to semifinals at WJC

By Simon Richard





2005 Prospects: Alex Bourret

Seventeen-year-old Phil
Kessel
showed his exceptional talent again Saturday night. He scored three
goals in a row for the USA, including two beauties and added one assist en
route to a 8-2 win over Sweden in the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks in
the 2005 WJC.

 

Sweden took the lead in the first period with a goal from Loui
Eriksson
, assisted by Johannes Salmonsson. Kevin Porter made
it 1-1 assisted by Kessel and Ryan Suter at 12:07. Drew Stafford
placed the USA ahead in the fourth minute of the second period.

Three minutes later, Kessel took the puck in his own zone and
accelerated. He crossed the blue line and passed through the only Swedish
defenseman remaining before scoring while he was off balance. The crowd in the
REA went wild. When the replay was shown on the main score board, people
shouted at loud again looking to this piece of anthology.

It was then 3-1. This was to be the winning goal.

Loui Eriksson put it 3-2 seven minutes later,
assisted by Salmonsson and Elias Granath. The period ended at this
score.

A hat trick for Kessel

At 4:15 of the third, Kessel scored another fabulous goal on an
individual effort, mystifying another Swedish defenseman, on the right side of
the rink this time. ‘USA, USA, USA’ was shouted loudly in the REA.

Swedish goaltender David Berguv Rautio was pulled from the game. Christopher
Heino Lindberg
came in.

Only three minutes later, Kessel completed his hat trick after
O’Sullivan’s shot hit the post. An old tradition was respected as hats were
sent on the ice by a few ecstatic fans.

It was 5-2 USA.

The last American who has scored a hat trick at the WJC was Zach
Parize
, in an 8-0 victory at the 2004 WJC against Austria.

Goaltender Heino-Lindberg suffered a dislocated shoulder on the play and
Berguv Rautio had to take again his place on the net.

There were still 13 minutes to play, but the game was over. The Swedish
players had given up. Schremp, Suter and Hensick scored, making the final score
8-2.

The Americans keep their chance to hold the gold medal but they will
have first to beat the Russians on Sunday night.

Postgame comments

Former Winnipeg Jets Swedish
star Anders Hedberg was at the game. After the third period, he told Hockey’s
Future that the game was much more even than the score was. "I’m not
blaming the choice of Berguv Rautio as the starting goalie, but with a better
goaltending on our side, this game was even."

 

Hedberg, who was a prolific
scorer, had this to say on Kessel, "He is very good, very good."

 

"We played a good game,
it was a very skilled game and it is tough to handle these guys,"
commented Schremp. He thought that the U.S. played a big game and offered their
best effort. "We took some of our momentum from the third period against
the Czechs."

 

On Kessel, Schremp said that
he was unbelievable. "He has a great talent and was our best player."

 

"I can’t say how good he
is," said O.Sullivan talking about the youngest U.S. player. But "I
played in this tournament when I was 17, I was not near him at this age,”
observed O’Sullivan.

 

Kessel came in the media zone
about 15 minutes after the end of the game, already in street clothes.

 

"I guess tonight was the
night," were his first words.

 

"As a team, we played
very well tonight."

 

Kessel was asked to talk
about his performance. "I felt very relaxed. I think that I played pretty
well. Russia was good game for me too. I had no expectation personally. I’m
young, I have a couple more years to play in this tournament and I just want to
play a good game," he said.

 

The Madison born kid was also
asked by a journalist to comment on Crosby. "He is a great player, you
know. He is the best among us," replied the star of the night.

 

Drew Stafford had this to say
about Kessel. "I know how good he is and what kind of play he can do. But
you know, he is also a good kid off the ice. He has a lot of skills of the ice.
This is also one of his great qualities."

 

At the post game press
conference, the Swedish coach Torgny Bendelin said that the game was played at
a pretty high level. "The U.S. is the best team we have met here after the
Canada," said Bendelin.

 

"Until the seventh
minute of the third, there was still a game. We gave three cheap goals, I’m
sorry to say that. Unless those three goals, the score was still even at
2-2," he said.

 

Coach Sandelin opened his
statement, saying "Thank god we had Phil Kessel, he was the best
tonight."

"We are very fortunate
to get out there and to get a chance to face Russians," said the U.S.
coach.

 

 

Simon
Richard is the author of La Serie du siecle, Septembre 1972, a book about the
Summit Series published in 2002.
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the
editorial staff.