Kessel back on first line

The Gophers line chart was shaken up with the forward returning to action.

Minnesota forward Amanda Kessel drives the puck down the rink Ridder Arena on Feb. 6.

Kathryn Chlystek, Daily File Photo

Minnesota forward Amanda Kessel drives the puck down the rink Ridder Arena on Feb. 6.

Emily Polglaze

The Gophers’ lineup has been fairly consistent this season, but Amanda Kessel’s return last weekend shook things up.
 
 
The forward skated on the team’s top line with senior captain Hannah Brandt and junior Dani Cameranesi, and the other lines have been shifted as a result.
 
 
The three players on Minnesota’s new top line have combined for 658 career points.
 
 
“It’s different, but our team has responded to Amanda being back, and Amanda has been great,” head coach Brad Frost said. “She’s a member of our team, and I think everyone has bought into that and agrees with that. Now it’s just a matter of trying to make a run at the end of the year.”
 
 
Kessel and Brandt played on a line together during Brandt’s freshman 2012-13 season. The Gophers were a perfect 41-0 that year and won a second consecutive national championship.
 
 
Kessel, then a junior, led the team with 101 points while Brandt was second with 82.
 
 
Cameranesi wasn’t even on campus at that point but skated with Kessel in her return over the weekend. The two both picked up assists on Minnesota’s first goal of the weekend, which Brandt scored on the power play.
 
 
“It was an awesome experience for the entire team, and for me to play with one of the best players — if not the best player in the entire world — was quite fun, to be honest,” Cameranesi said. “It was great to see her play, and I hope I can learn a lot from her.”
 
 
Frost said Kessel’s return created a positive “trickle-down” effect as the team’s talent is redistributed.
 
 
Freshman forward Sarah Potomak, the team’s third-leading scorer, moved to the second line over the weekend with sophomore center Kelly Pannek and junior forward Kate Schipper.
 
 
The move strengthens what was already a strong second unit for the Gophers and allowed sophomore Cara Piazza to shift from a second-line wing to the third-line center.
 
 
Piazza is fifth on the team in points this year, and Frost said he liked how she played in the middle over the weekend. 
 
 
As players shift around, the team hopes all the late-season changes help the team defend its national title.
 
 
“I never really thought I would play with her, so I’m really excited to have her around, and she’s definitely someone to look up to,” Piazza said. “She’s had an awesome career here. Being able to come back after an injury shows the determination that she has.”