Every weekday from May 23-June 7, we will be looking back at the "Dandy Dozen" moments from the historic 2015-16 WCHA season. Next up on our countdown is…
Moment 7: Kessel Returns to the Ice
A two-time All-American. The 2013 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner. One of the greatest players to ever skate for the University of Minnesota or in the WCHA. But, for nearly three years, it appeared that this star was also – prematurely – a "former" collegiate hockey player. Amanda Kessel, however, fought back and, on Feb. 5, 2016, she returned to the ice to begin a truly remarkable and thrilling 13-game run to properly close out her career in the Maroon and Gold.
A transcendent player, Kessel had last skated collegiately in the 2013 National Championship game – leading the Gophers to a victory that triumphantly wrapped up a perfect 41-0-0 season – before taking a redshirt year to represent the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. However, a concussion suffered during the run-up to Sochi forced her to miss the entire 2014-15 season and the first five months of the 2015-16 campaign.
Always a highly anticipated game when Minnesota and North Dakota face off, the night of Feb. 5 took on extra meaning. Kessel, reunited with center Hannah Brandt on the Gophers' top line, produced a pair of assists in her first game back, earning First Star honors and helping Minnesota to a 3-0 win in front of 2,635 delighted fans at Ridder Arena.
Overall, Kessel tallied a point in 10 of her 13 games, finishing with 17 overall (11g-6a) and a +10 rating as Minnesota went 11-1-1 with her in the lineup. She wrapped up by scoring in all three NCAA tournament games, leading the Gophers to the national title. Kessel netted a hat trick (including the game-winner) in the quarterfinal win over Princeton, scored the third-period equalizer in an eventual overtime victory over Wisconsin in the semifinals, and a second-period marker against Boston College that stood as the game-winner of the 2016 National Championship game.
A three-time NCAA champion, Kessel finished her Minnesota career with 108 goals, 140 assists and 248 points in 126 games. She ranks sixth in WCHA history (since 1999-2000) for points and assists, and tied for seventh for goals. In Gophers' annals (since 1997-98), she is second for points, and third for both goals and assists. In NCAA history (since 2000-01), Kessel is eighth for points and assists, and tied for 11th for goals.
Kessel will continue her hockey career next season with the New York Riveters in the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL).
For more on Kessel's inspiring comeback, please check out the following national stories:
"Dandy Dozen" Moments from the 2015-16 WCHA Season