Kessel readying for last playoff run

The senior forward has already earned two national titles while at Minnesota.

Gophers forward Amanda Kessel fights to maintain control of the puck while playing against Wisconsin in Ridders Arena on Saturday, Feb. 20.

Joe Sulik, Daily File Photo

Gophers forward Amanda Kessel fights to maintain control of the puck while playing against Wisconsin in Ridders Arena on Saturday, Feb. 20.

Emily Polglaze

Amanda Kessel will begin her final postseason run on Friday, nearly three years after her last playoff game with Minnesota.
 
 
During the senior forward’s last postseason, she scored seven points, including two goals and two assists in the national championship game.
 
 
“Knowing that it’s her last postseason with the Gophers, I’m sure that’s inspirational for her,” head coach Brad Frost said. “I would imagine she would want to try and make this one as memorable as her last one.”
 
 
The 2013 national championship was the second of Kessel’s college career after helping the Gophers to the title as a sophomore.
 
 
The Madison, Wis., native scored 13 points in seven playoff games in 2012.
 
 
Kessel rejoined No. 2 Minnesota (29-3-1, 24-3-1 WCHA) three weeks ago after a long absence due to lingering concussion symptoms and has slowly been improving ever since.
 
 
In her first game back against North Dakota, she recorded two assists, and the following day she scored a shootout goal.
 
 
Kessel scored her first goal in regulation this season the following weekend at Duluth, and senior forward Hannah Brandt said she expected Kessel to start producing even more after that.
 
 
Brandt’s linemate didn’t disappoint, scoring two goals in Minnesota’s 4-0 victory over Wisconsin last Friday.
 
 
“I think, individually, I’m more confident,” Kessel said. “I’m getting my game back with every single [game], and it’s just great timing now that playoffs are coming up.”
 
 
Brandt said having Kessel back in the lineup has led to more scoring opportunities on the ice.
 
 
The Gophers shifted around their lines with Kessel back in the fold. Kessel, Brandt and freshman forward Sarah Potomak combining for seven points in the team’s last three games.
 
 
Minnesota’s second line of juniors Dani Cameranesi and Kate Schipper, along with sophomore Kelly Pannek, has 14 points in the same span.
 
 
“Having [Kessel] scoring is unbelievable for our team because it just opens it up for everyone else,” Brandt said. “Teams have to worry about her, and then other people can contribute if she’s not personally. I’m looking forward to her getting a lot of other people going.” 
 
 
The team starts its postseason run this weekend against Ohio State (10-23-1, 6-21-1 WCHA) at home in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. Kessel has not played against the Buckeyes since 2013. 
 
 
“It could be season-ending for them,” Kessel said. “They have seniors too, and girls who are going to give their all, so we really have to be prepared and know that they’re going to work hard.”