She was not supposed to be here.

Not on the ice, not in uniform, not getting introduced as the Gophers' starting right wing to what coach Brad Frost called the loudest applause since the Gophers last won the national championship.

She could get hit. She could fall. She could damage her brain.

Yet Friday in Ridder Arena, Amanda Kessel was wearing the maroon and gold for the first time in more than two years and finished with two assists as the No. 3 Gophers beat No. 8 North Dakota 3-0.

Kessel missed all of last season because of lingering effects from a concussion she suffered in the lead-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

She redshirted that 2013-14 season to play in the Olympics, then she couldn't play in 2014-15. In July, Gophers coach Brad Frost announced Kessel would not return this year, and it seemed Kessel's career was over.

But despite the heightened awareness and increasing fear of the long-term effects of concussions, Kessel didn't hang up her skates.

She put them back on.

"I think anything's possible," Kessel said. "I think I would regret it if I didn't work to get to this point. … It was devastating to think I wasn't going to be able to finish out this year."

Kessel, who led the nation with 101 points in 2012-13 and won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award at the end of that season, enrolled in classes this fall and returned to practicing only a few weeks ago. She said in August that she saw new doctors who told her it was possible she could play again.

Frost tempered his expectations.

"I always had it in the back of my head that I guess there was potential, but I always thought it was a long shot," Frost said.

Friday, Kessel didn't only suit up for the Gophers. She came out with a secondary assist in the first period and helped the Gophers (25-3, 20-3 WCHA) win behind goals from Hannah Brandt, Sydney Baldwin and Sophie Skarzynski.

Kessel's second assist came in the third period on a clean cross-ice pass to Skarzynksi, who then nailed a slapshot from the blue line.

Kessel also drew the game's first penalty on North Dakota and was involved in her share of scrums around the boards.

She said she wasn't in 100 percent game-shape, but the bigger problem was simply getting reacquainted with pregame details.

"I felt like a rookie," Kessel said. "I didn't know any of the routines or my spot in line. I was just following along."

Frost said the Gophers medical staff got second and third opinions before clearing Kessel to play in games.

But despite a perception of women's hockey being safer than the men's game, Kessel does not return without risks. A 2014 NCAA study of self-reported concussions revealed 20.9 percent of women's hockey players had experienced at least one concussion.

Another NCAA study showed women's hockey players experiencing concussions at a rate of 7.52 per 10,000 exposures. That number trails only wrestling (10.92) and men's hockey (7.91). The rate for football was 6.71.

Kessel, though, is back on the ice. Without a doubt, her comeback is fearless.

"If I was going to get back to playing I was going to be 100 percent healthy and able to get in there," Kessel said.