Gophers junior Amanda Kessel was banged up and riding a bit of a slump, by her standards, entering Sunday’s NCAA championship game.
On Saturday, she received the Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the nation’s top player, but it was fair to wonder how effective she’d be on college women’s hockey biggest stage.
Kessel’s answer came loud and clear. She had two goals and two assists, as the Gophers defeated Boston University 6-3 to finish their season a perfect 41-0.
“You saw why she was the Patty Kazmaier winner,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “Because she was an absolute stud, and she’s been playing like that all year for us.”
Kessel finished the season with 46 goals and 55 assists, giving her 101 points. She became the fourth player in NCAA history to reach the 100-point mark, joining former Gophers Natalie Darwitz (114 points) and Krissy Wendell (104), and Harvard’s Jennifer Botterill (112).
“I think it’s pretty special, but ... those personal records don’t really matter when you win a national championship,” Kessel said. “You don’t know how good [a championship] feels until you’ve been there, and you really don’t know how good it feels until you do it back-to-back.”
As for how Kessel’s body feels, it’s fair to say she’s still not close to 100 percent. Gophers coach Brad Frost said that was plain to see for anyone watching Minnesota’s recent games.
In Friday’s 3-2 win over Boston College in the semifinals, Kessel was held without a point for just the second time in 44 games.
Kessel had hip surgery in June after scoring 80 points last season. She didn’t skate all summer, and then she separated her shoulder in a game early this season. She kept piling up points, so no one thought too much of it, but behind the scenes she was on a limited practice schedule.
Then, late in the regular season, she suffered another unspecified injury. Even Thursday — the day before the Women’s Frozen Four started — Kessel did not skate during practice.
So what is this mystery ailment? Even with the season finished, Frost wasn’t ready to reveal it Sunday night.
“She’s on a flight [Monday] morning at 6 a.m., to head to the World Championships, so we’ll just keep it under wraps,” he said.
After competing for Team USA in the World Championships, Kessel is expected to make the 2014 Olympic team. That commitment will cause her to miss an entire college season, but there is good news for Gophers fans.
Kessel said she has every intention to return to the Gophers for the 2014-2015 season.
She’s determined to win a third NCAA title, and with 231 career points, she has a chance to pass Darwitz (246 points) as the school’s all-time leading scorer.
But those achievements can wait. Asked how she planned to celebrate Sunday, Kessel said she was going to soak up every last moment she could with her Gophers teammates.