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U.S. women rout Russia at world hockey championship

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PLYMOUTH, Mich. (AP) — Amanda Kessel rediscovered just how good it feels to score a goal for your country.

The American forward missed more than 1 1/2 years after the 2014 Winter Olympics because of a concussion. There were times during her long recovery when Kessel wondered if she’d ever represent her country again.

She scored her first international goal in more than three years Saturday in the United States’ 7-0 win over Russia at the women’s world hockey championship.

Kessel and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson combined on an odd-man rush with Kessel pouncing on a rebound to score the first goal of the game.

“I kind of feel like I got a monkey off my back,” Kessel said. “I was kind of itching for that first one to give you more confidence. With every game I feel better and better.

“It makes you really appreciate the game and what you miss. I really cherish every moment now.”

The 25-year-old sister of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel also had an assist in the Americans’ second win in two days to open the world championship.

Lamoureux-Davidson, Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne each scored twice for the defending champions. Maddie Rooney stopped all 14 shots she faced to give the U.S. a second straight shutout, a day after Nicole Hensley turned away 18 in a 2-0 win over Canada.

Maria Sorokina had 27 saves for Russia (1-1).

Kessel had last scored for the U.S. in a 6-1 win over Sweden in the Sochi Olympics semifinal. She’d tripped and went head first into the boards in a scrimmage prior to the Winter Games. She played in the Olympics but experienced concussion symptoms through the summer.

Kessel didn’t appear in a game again until February 2016 when she rejoined the University of Minnesota. Kessel played for the U.S. in a two-game exhibition series against Canada in December, but didn’t record a point.

“She brings her speed to the game, and her vision,” Decker said. “Getting a couple more games under her belt, she’s going to settle in that much more.”

Watching her brother win the Stanley Cup last year inspired Kessel.

“It was really emotional actually watching him go through that,” she said. “I was able to go to pretty much every playoff game because I’d just ended college. … Seeing what they went through and how hard it is to win that is super special.”

The Americans scored in bunches Saturday with two goals in less than a minute in the second period and another two in the final 19 seconds of the game.

“It’s just those lapses we’ve got to get rid of,” Russian forward Iya Gavrilova said. “We just get too offensive with those teams and you can’t allow that. … You have to play disciplined and it’s hard sometimes when you have a chance to put the pressure on.”

Olga Sosina and Anna Shukina were back in Russia’s lineup after serving one-game suspensions for taking match penalties in an exhibition game against Switzerland earlier in the week. They missed Russia’s 2-1 win over Finland on Friday.

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MORE: Stanley Cup-winning goalie joins U.S. women’s coaching staff

Paralympian Blake Leeper advances in 400m at USATF Outdoors (video)

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Paralympic medalist Blake Leeper, believed to be the first double amputee to race at a USATF Outdoor Championships, advanced out of the 400m heats in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Leeper ran 45.52, third in his heat, to grab the 16th and last spot in the 400m semifinals Friday (10:34 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold).

It marked a personal best by .58 of a second for Leeper, who was racing one day after his ban for testing positive for cocaine in 2015 ended.

“I wanted to advance, but if I don’t I have won already,” Leeper said before he learned he made the semis, according to USA Track and Field. “Just being here and showing everybody what you can truly do with a disability.”

Leeper ran faster than Olympians David VerburgKyle ClemonsArman Hall and Manteo Mitchell, who were all eliminated.

It’s likely that the top five or six in Saturday’s final will make the 4x400m team for the world championships in London in August.

USATF OUTDOORS: Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview
Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

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Alysia Montano races pregnant again at USATF Outdoor Championships (video)

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U.S. Olympic 800m runner Alysia Montaño raced five months pregnant in 100-degree heat at the USATF Outdoor Championships (Summer Champions Series) in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Montaño, who raced eight months pregnant at the 2014 USATF Outdoors also in Sacramento, finished last in her 800m first-round heat in 2:21.40. She was 10 seconds faster than her time three years ago.

“People were like, oh, you’re going to run faster than you did last time because you’re less pregnant,” Montaño told media in Sacramento, standing next to 2-year-old daughter Linnea. “I was like, I’m still pregnant.”

Athletes are looking for top-three finishes to qualify for the world championships in London in August. Finals are later this weekend.

USATF OUTDOORS: Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview
Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

In a Wonder Woman top, Montaño gritted her teeth on the final straightaway and raised her arms crossing the finish line.

“[In 2014] women let me know that my journey and my story had inspired them in so many different ways,” Montaño said. “I think there’s something about coming out to any venue, not really expecting to win, but just going along with the journey and seeing what comes out of it. And that’s the most beautiful part for me, being a track and field athlete, the platform that I have, I feel so responsible to be a representative of people who don’t have the same platform, don’t have the same voice that I do.

“I represent so many different people. I represent women. I represent black women. I represent pregnant women. Not everybody has the same platform that I do. I think it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m a voice and advocate for them.”

Montaño said she was inspired when she learned Gal Gadot, who played the title role in the movie “Wonder Woman,” filmed half of it while five months pregnant.

“I saw Wonder Woman, and I was like, I for sure am signing up for USA Nationals,” Montaño said. “I already was thinking I was going to do it.”

Montaño said it wasn’t easier or harder racing Thursday versus three years ago, when she had a bigger baby bump.

“The weird part about five months is you’re still growing and like shifting a lot,” she said. “So every week you have to readjust.”

Linnea has seen enough photos of her mom’s famous race in 2014 to know what was going on.

“I go, mom is going to run with your sibling in her belly,” Montaño recalled. “I did that with you, too. And [Linnea] was like, ‘Yeah, it was sticking out!'”

Montaño raced outdoors for the first time since falling in the Olympic Trials 800m final on July 4. Montaño had won the previous Olympic Trials (and finished fourth in London) and the 2015 U.S. title coming back from pregnancy.

She ran without an apparel sponsor Thursday, frustrated that Asics waited until December to say they were not interested in retaining her for 2017. Montaño said that left her no time to try and find a different sponsor, even though she was already planning to have her second child.

“You need to let an athlete know in September, October,” she said. “I’ve been calling [Asics] since September to be like, hey, I didn’t make the Olympic team, I’m 30, I’m going to have another baby.”

In the men’s 800m Thursday, two-time Olympian and 2013 World silver medalist Nick Symmonds was eliminated, 32nd-fastest of 33 runners in the first round.

Symmonds, in his final season, said he has one more race left — the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 10.

MORE: Montaño finds little joy after Russian stripped of medals

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