Olympian Amanda Kessel will not return to the Gophers women’s hockey team this season result of a concussion suffered leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
The senior forward from Madison, Wis., was cleared to play in the Olympics, but is still experiencing lingering symptoms from the injury, Gophers women’s hockey coach Brad Frost said. Kessel and her doctors decided it’d be best to continue her recovery process away from school.
“We knew she wasn’t at full strength the last couple of months,” Frost said. “It’s best for her to try and recover away from college and we’ve been planning for that. Any time you lose arguably the top player in the country it makes it more difficult, but now we can focus on the players and team that we have and make a run at a national championship.”
Kessel has been working with doctors at the Carrick Brain Center in Atlanta, Ga. She was one of two Gophers, last season, to leave behind college hockey for a chance to compete with the U.S. Women's National Team. She contributed three goals and three assists in five games during a silver-medal run in Sochi.
Kessel led women's college hockey in scoring as a junior in 2012-2013 and helped lead the program to its fifth national championship during a perfect 41-0-0 season. The 101 points (46 goals, 55 assists) were a career high and good enough to earn nearly every top player award in the nation, including the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. She ranks fourth among Gophers all-time scorers with 231 points.
"I’ve had an unforgettable experience at the University of Minnesota thus far, so I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to return to the team this year,” Kessel said in a statement. "It’s obviously a difficult decision and one that I’ve taken time to come to terms with. 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.
“My number one priority is my health, and I hope that I’ll be able to return to the ice in the future. I want to thank my coaches, teammates and everyone at the university for their support.”
This is the third player in the last five years Frost has lost to concussions. Forward Ashley Stenerson and goaltender Alyssa Grogan had their careers cut short after suffering a concussion and never fully recovering. Stenerson was forced to retire after her freshman season and Grogan missed 16 months before making a brief appearance in the final seconds of Senior Day in 2012.
"Certainly concussions are being noticed a lot more regularly and diagnosed a lot more regularly, now days. It's definitely a concern," Frost said. "It's becoming more more prevalent [on all levels]."