Kessel to not return for 2015-16 season

by Ben Gotz

The Minnesota women’s hockey program won the NCAA championship in 2015, despite former Olympian Amanda Kessel sitting out the season due to lingering concussion symptoms. The program will continue to move forward in Kessel’s absence, as Minnesota head coach Brad Frost confirmed to the Minnesota Daily on Tuesday the forward will not return for the 2015-16 season due to continuing injury concerns. “Her health takes number one priority, so we determined together that it would not make sense for her to play for us next year,” Frost said. Kessel last skated for the Gophers in the 2012-2013 season, recording 101 points in 37 games and winning women’s college hockey’s top honor, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. That same season the Gophers won the NCAA title with a perfect, undefeated season. In her three year career at Minnesota, Kessel scored 231 points in 114 games, ranking her fourth all-time in scoring in program history. “The three years that we had her [were] three of the best years that we’ve had,” Frost said. “[She is] just an incredible player who’s a threat every time she’s on the ice.” Kessel left the program for the 2013-14 season to represent the United States in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, winning a silver medal. Kessel then announced on Sept. 10, 2014, she would also miss the 2015-15 season due to lingering concussion symptoms from her time with the U.S. women’s national team. “It’s obviously a difficult decision and one that I’ve taken time to come to terms with,” Kessel said September 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 he and Kessel have had conversations over the last year about her possible return, but he knew it was a long shot. The Gophers adapted in her absence to win the program’s sixth national championship, but the team will miss the unique combination of skills she brought to the ice. “I think she was multi-faceted which is what made her so dangerous,” Frost said. “[She was] not the biggest player on the ice but somebody who was very shifty. Very fast, quick, could see the game at a high level. Loved to make a beautiful pass but also could finish. I mean, if you could take one aspect of her game out she could still beat you with other tools.”