Top forward out for season after concussion

Amanda Kessel will sit out the 2014-15 season with lingering issues from the head injury.

Gophers forward Amanda Kessel drives the puck toward the net on January 20, 2012 at Ridder Arena.

Image by Daily File Photo, Erin Westover

Gophers forward Amanda Kessel drives the puck toward the net on January 20, 2012 at Ridder Arena.

by Betsy Helfand

When the Gophers women’s hockey team begins its season in less than a month, it will be without its star forward for the second year in a row.

Head coach Brad Frost announced Wednesday that Amanda Kessel, who redshirted last season to compete in the Olympics, will miss the upcoming season due to lingering concussion issues.

Frost said it was his understanding that Kessel had suffered her injury before she played in the Olympics.

“It’s obviously a difficult decision and one that I’ve taken time to come to terms with,” Kessel said in a statement. “As someone who has played through a lot of injuries, it wasn’t until suffering a concussion that I fully understood the importance of being 100 percent healthy when I’m on the ice. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case right now.”

Frost said Kessel had originally enrolled in school and the team’s doctors evaluated her before deciding that she’d sit out.

“Our doctors agreed with some other doctors that she had seen that going to school just wouldn’t help in her recovery, so it was [decided] yesterday that she would un-enroll in class and that she would go back to trying to recover fully,” Frost said.

Frost said Kessel was disappointed, but along with that is “the reality that she gets the best care possible.”

Kessel has worked with doctors at the Carrick Brain Center in Atlanta.

“My priority is my health, and I hope that I’ll be able to return to the ice in the future. I want to thank my coaches, teammates and everyone at the University for their support,” she said in the statement.

In the past few years, Minnesota has seen Alyssa Grogan and Ashley Stenerson retire due to concussions.

“It’s hit our program pretty hard with two others … and now Amanda and the uncertainty of what her future holds,” Frost said.

But at this point, he said it’s too early to speculate whether Kessel will be forced to hang up her skates.

“People have come back from [concussions] and recovered 100 percent, and so that’s certainly our hope for her,” he said.

Kessel, a prolific scorer, currently ranks fourth among all-time scorers for Minnesota.

During her junior season, she led the nation with 101 points and won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, given to the top player in the nation.

Losing Kessel is a big blow to the Gophers, who should once again be in the hunt for a national championship, but playing without her is something they overcame last season.

“Certainly when you lose somebody of Amanda’s caliber, that would hurt any team,” Frost said. “But at the same time we were without her last year … and had a real good year, and so the hope is that people will step up again to fill that void.”