OSTRAVA, Czech Republic, May 10 – Brock Nelson (N.Y. Islanders) scored twice and added one assist, and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (St. John’s/AHL) made 21 saves as the U.S. men’s national hockey team clinched a berth in the quarterfinals Sunday with a 3-1 win over Slovenia at the world championships.
The Americans (5-1) can clinch the No. 1 seed from eight-team Group B with a win over Slovakia Tuesday morning at 10:15 a.m. The game will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN).
“It’s nice to win and we’ve put ourselves in a good position,” said Todd Richards, head coach of the national team. “As we head toward our final preliminary round game and into the quarterfinals, we need to get back to the way we were playing in the first few games. This team has the potential to do great things, that I truly believe.”
Avon’s Ben Smith, a forward from the San Jose Sharks, skated on 15 shifts and played for 11 minutes. He had a third period shot on goal.
A pair of goals by Nelson in the opening period helped the U.S. build a 2-0 lead at the first intermission. Nelson’s first tally came 4:17 in after a dominant shift in the offensive zone. Jack Eichel (Boston University) started the play when he walked the puck out from behind the net and through the right circle before dumping it back behind the net to Mike Reilly (University of Minnesota). Reilly faked a move around the cage, turned and hit Nelson at the doorstep for the tap-in goal.
Nelson connected for his sixth of the tournament 12 minutes later on a power play. Justin Faulk (Carolina Hurricanes) sent a one-timer towards the net that was tipped by Trevor Lewis (L.A. Kings) into the pads of Slovenian goaltender Robert Kristan. The goalie couldn’t control the rebound and the puck bounced right to Nelson, who scooped it into the back of the net.
Nelson leads the Americans with six goals in the tournament. Lewis had three assists today and has scored seven points in the tournament (2 goals, 5 assists). Hellebuyck is 4-0 in the tournament and leads the tournament with a 0.75 goals against average and a .969 save percentage.