Amanda Kessel’s electrifying career with the Gophers women’s hockey team officially has ended because of lingering concussion effects from her time playing for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team.
Kessel still had a year of college eligibility remaining, but Gophers coach Brad Frost confirmed Tuesday that she won’t be returning to the team.
“After her missing last year and the severity of the concussions, we had a feeling that she was not going to be able to play for us unless things turned around,” Frost said. “We’ve had some discussions with Amanda and myself, but really, it’s never even gotten to the point where hockey is something she would do with us again.”
Kessel, 23, helped lead the Gophers to NCAA titles as a sophomore and junior, with 80 and 101 points, respectively.
She won the Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the nation’s top player, in 2013, when she scored 46 goals, helping the Gophers finish 41-0.
Kessel, the younger sister of former Gopher and current Pittsburg Penguin Phil Kessel, has kept a low public profile since the Olympics and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
She suffered a concussion leading up to the 2014 Sochi Games but was cleared by doctors to play in the Olympics.
She had three goals and three assists in the tournament for a U.S. team that took silver after an overtime loss to Canada in the title game.
Kessel had planned to return to the Gophers last season but the concussion symptoms lingered.
“My No. 1 priority is my health, and I hope that I’ll be able to return to the ice in the future,” she announced last September. “I want to thank my coaches, teammates and everyone at the university for their support.”
Even without Kessel, the Gophers won their third NCAA title in four years. She had kept open the possibility of playing one more college season until recently.
She finishes her college career with 231 points, ranking fourth on the Gophers all-time list behind Natalie Darwitz (246), Krissy Wendell (237) and Nadine Muzerall (235).
Heading into her senior season, Hannah Brandt ranks fifth on the list with 221 points, and she often credits the jump-start she got as a freshman playing on Kessel’s line.
“She’s easily one of the top three players in our program’s history,” Frost said of Kessel.
“She is so dynamic, so crafty, sees the ice at an incredible level, passes the puck like nobody we’ve had and still has the ability to finish. Every time she was on the ice, she was a huge threat to either score or make something happen.”
Frost said Kessel still plans to return to the university to finish her degree in sports management.