Former Olympian and two-time All-America standout Amanda Kessel will return to the Gophers women's hockey team for the remainder of the 2015-2016 season, coach Brad Frost announced Wednesday.
Kessel missed the past two seasons with the Gophers. She redshirted the 2013-2014 season to compete on the U.S. team at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, and then sat out the 2014-2015 season while recovering from a concussion she suffered during the Olympics.
The 2015-2016 season is the final year of Kessel's NCAA eligibility. She was part of the Gophers' perfect 41-0 run to a national title in 2012-2013 and won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the nation's top player.
Kessel is expected to play for the No. 3-ranked Gophers against No. 8 North Dakota at 6 p.m. Friday at Ridder Arena. The series concludes with 4 p.m. game Saturday.
"I'm so happy to be playing hockey again," Kessel said in a statement. "I'm not suffering from any concussion symptoms, and I've been evaluated by a number of physicians who have cleared me to play. I feel great, and I'm looking forward to being back on the ice with my teammates on game day.
"Sometimes difficult things happen in life, and they only make you stronger. It was extremely challenging, but I did everything I could to get healthy. I'm grateful for everyone who helped and supported me throughout the difficult times. I wouldn't be in this position without them. I cannot wait to be back out there doing what I love to do while representing the University of Minnesota."
Before the 2015-2016 season, the Gophers announced that Kessel wouldn't play her final season because of lingering concussion symptoms. She last played in the 2014 Winter Olympics, where she had three goals and three assists and earned a silver medal.
In her last season with the Gophers, 2012-2013, Kessel led the nation in scoring with a career-high 101 points (46 goals, 55 assists). Along with the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, she was the 2013 USA Hockey Bob Allen Women's Player of the Year, USCHO co-Player of the Year, WCHA Player of the Year and a first-team All-America selection.
In 114 career games, Kessel, a native of Madison, Wis., has 231 points and is fifth all-time in the program with 97 goals and third with 134 assists.
"We're excited to have Amanda returning to the lineup," Frost said. "Her recovery and overall health have always been most important, and we weren't sure if she would have the opportunity to play college hockey again.
"Knowing that Amanda and the team of doctors working with her have determined she is healthy and ready to resume playing is certainly great news. She has always been a part of our program, and we're happy she has a chance to finish out her college career on the ice along with completing her coursework and getting her degree this spring."