Kessel on the cusp of 100th point

She would be just the fourth player in program history to reach the mark as a sophomore.

Samuel Gordon

The Gophers womenâÄôs hockey program has helped produce remarkable talent in its 15-year history âÄî 17 Patty Kazmaier Award (Top Player in the Nation) Finalists, 21 All-Americans and seven Olympians.

Of that bunch, only three have ever eclipsed the 100-point plateau as a sophomore: Nadine Muzerall, Natalie Darwitz and Krissy Wendell.

A fourth will be joining that short list soon âÄî Amanda Kessel.

Kessel, the teamâÄôs leading scorer with 49 points this season, will reach the mark with her next goal or assist.

âÄúItâÄôs pretty special. Hearing the names that have reached that,âÄù Kessel said. âÄúIf I can join them, it would be a huge honor.âÄù

SheâÄôll join some pretty elite company. Muzerall is the programâÄôs all-time leader in goals scored and both Darwitz and Wendell have captained the U.S Olympic Team.

Muzerall, who has served as an assistant coach for the Gophers since October, had some high praise for her sophomore star.

âÄúSheâÄôs a playmaker, but also can be that go-to person, that clutch player that you need a goal from,âÄù Muzerall said. âÄúSheâÄôs very effective on the power play but is also great on the penalty kill.âÄù

Muzerall said that KesselâÄôs well-rounded skill set is âÄúcrucial for a successful programâÄù and described her as âÄúone of the top forwards âĦ in the NCAA.âÄù

The stats corroborate that assessment.

KesselâÄôs 49 points (21 goals, 28 assists) are the sixth-most nationally. In 2010-11, her team-leading mark of 50 points was the fourth-best amongst all freshmen.

With eight more regular-season games left on MinnesotaâÄôs slate, Kessel is sure to eclipse her point total from a year ago. Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said her health has played a key role in her progression.

âÄúSheâÄôs healthier this year than she was last year. SheâÄôs been able to practice more,âÄù Frost said. âÄúSheâÄôs been able to battle and compete more in practice, and therefore, it allows her to take that next step in her game.âÄù

Kessel said she doesnâÄôt think sheâÄôs reached her full potential and expects her game to continue to evolve in the coming years.

âÄúI want to become more consistent all the time, and thatâÄôs something that I really strive for. I want to be a little too perfect sometimes,âÄù she said.

If she does continue to improve, Kessel will stand a fantastic chance of fulfilling her goal of playing in the Olympics.

At 17, she was invited to the US Olympic Team tryouts but was cut. And yet she has acquired a bevy of international experience throughout the years. She represented Team USA on the U-22 Team, U-18 team and in the Four Nations Cup.

Senior captain Sarah Erickson said that KesselâÄôs âÄúinternational play has helped her tremendously.âÄù

Kessel said that she tries to bring her global experience back to the Gophers.

âÄúThe speed and skill, almost the attitudes and competitive spirits, there are a little more increased than at the college level,âÄù Kessel said. âÄúWhenever I can bring that kind of stuff back, I think it gives me a little bit of an edge.âÄù

As far as her ambitions at the collegiate level, Kessel said she wants to âÄúwin a national championship, or a few maybe.âÄù

The No. 2 Gophers are one of the favorites to capture this yearâÄôs crown and if they do, sheâÄôll likely have a big hand in it.

âÄúI think her legacy has yet to be written, just as to where sheâÄôll fall in the all-time greats. SheâÄôs only a sophomore, and sheâÄôs been leading her team for the last year and a half points-wise,âÄù Frost said.

âÄúWhen youâÄôre able to do that as a sophomore, it speaks volumes to the talent and the ability that she has.âÄù