Madison native Kessel gets first shot at hometown team

by Nate Gotlieb

Freshman Amanda Kessel couldnâÄôt ask for a better first shot to beat her hometown team. As the Gophers prepare to host top-ranked Wisconsin, Kessel, a Madison native and the Gophers’ leading scorer, would love to start her career against the Badgers undefeated. âÄúIâÄôm definitely going to be trying my hardest like always, but to beat them, thatâÄôd be something,âÄù Kessel, the only Wisconsinite on the team, said. Kessel and the Gophers will attempt to hand an undefeated Wisconsin team its first loss. The Badgers’ high-powered offense has averaged five goals per game, but this series will be their first road test against a top-ten team. Kessel, the preseason favorite for WCHA rookie of the year, has 11 points through nine games. In fact, the next two highest scorers âÄì Kelly Terry (9) and Sarah Davis (8) âÄì are also freshmen. âÄúI think itâÄôs a good thing and a bad thing all wrapped into one,âÄù Frost said of the fact that three freshmen are the teamâÄôs leading scorers. âÄúItâÄôs good that theyâÄôve made the transition pretty smoothly and are playing really well, but if weâÄôre going to win hockey games and do as well as we want to this season, then our veterans and our returners need to start adding to the score sheet as well.âÄù The Gophers trail Wisconsin by 12 points in the WCHA standings through six games, and a weekend sweep would put them back in the thick of things. But two losses to Wisconsin would put the team 18 points back, quite a deep hole to dig out of almost a third of the way through the season. The Gophers have been injury plagued so far but received good news as Emily West, last year’s leading scorer, returned to practice this week. West wore a red jersey in practice this week, which signified that she couldnâÄôt participate in certain drills. West, who was expected to contribute significantly to the GophersâÄô offense, has been out since Oct. 1 with an undisclosed injury. Goalie Alyssa Grogan and forward Sara Erickson were held out of practice Tuesday also due to injuries. Erickson is listed as day to day and will be in uniform this weekend, while Grogan will be unavailable.