The University of Minnesota Women's Hockey team announced that 2012-13 Patty Kazmaier Award Winner Amanda Kessel will rejoin the Gophers for the remainder of the 2015-16 season and complete her college eligibility. Gopher coach Brad Frost stated that Kessel would rejoin the Gopher lineup this weekend as Minnesota hosts North Dakota at Ridder Arena.
Kessel last played for the Gophers during their perfect 41-0 season in 2012-13. Kessel took a redshirt the following year to play for Team USA at the Sochi Olympics, only to suffer a concussion in one of the pre-Olympic tune up games. She sat out the entire 2014-15 season to try and recover from post-concussion symptoms, but re-enrolled at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2015 to finish her degree and get eligible to rejoin the Gophers.
Gopher coach Brad Frost released the following statement:
"We're excited to have Amanda returning to the lineup. Her recovery and overall health have always been most important, and we weren't sure if she would have the opportunity to play college hockey again. Knowing that Amanda and the team of doctors working with her have determined she is healthy and ready to resume playing is certainly great news. She has always been a part of our program, and we're happy she has a chance to finish out her college career on the ice along with completing her coursework and getting her degree this spring."
Kessel also released a statement on her return:
"I’m so happy to be playing hockey again. I’m not suffering from any concussion symptoms, and I’ve been evaluated by a number of physicians who have cleared me to play. I feel great, and I'm looking forward to being back on the ice with my teammates on game day. Sometimes difficult things happen in life, and they only make you stronger. It was extremely challenging, but I did everything I could to get healthy. I’m grateful for everyone who helped and supported me throughout the difficult times. I wouldn't be in this position without them. I cannot wait to be back out there doing what I love to do while representing the University of Minnesota."
In Kessel's last season in the Maroon and Gold, she led the nation in scoring with 101 points and 46 goals. She also won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best player in women's college hockey. Kessel is currently ranked 5th in Gopher history with 231 points, fifth in career goals with 97, and third in career assists with 134. She will try and make up some ground on current senior Hannah Brandt who currently has the most points in Gopher history with 268 points, most assists with 157, and ranks 2nd in goals with 111.
The Gophers will immediately improve with the addition of Kessel's scoring touch. The Gophers have struggled at times against good goaltenders this season. They scored just three goals while getting swept by Wisconsin in Madison and four goals in a sweep of Bemidji State this past weekend. The WCHA regular season will hinge on the last series of the year (2/19-2/20), when Wisconsin will come into Ridder Arena in first place and the Gophers trying to play spoiler on their home ice. The Gophers are currently ranked #3 in the nation behind only Boston College and Wisconsin, and the addition of Kessel does nothing but strengthen the Gophers chances of repeating as NCAA Champions and winning three titles in four seasons.
The Gophers and Kessel will get back to action this weekend when #8 North Dakota comes to town for their first series in Minneapolis as the Fighting Hawks. The teams will face off at 6:00 Friday evening, and return for game two at 4:00 Saturday afternoon. Good luck to Amanda as she tries to regain the magic she has brought to Gopher fans in the past!