ASNetminding: Amanda Kessel makes triumphant return for Minnesota


Amanda Kessel is back with Minnesota. Women’s college hockey just got more interesting with the postseason around the corner.

In an emotional return after a nearly two-year layoff because of a concussion, the senior picked up two assists in a 3-0 home win over rival North Dakota on Friday and also scored her first goal in a 0-0 shootout tie/loss on Saturday.

Losing the extra point in the shootout was the only blemish in what can only be described as an inspirational return to the ice.

The 2013 Patty Kazmaier Award winner, which goes to the best female player in hockey, and a two-time All-American for the Gophers, Kessel received a standing ovation from more than 2,700 fans in attendance while players tapped their sticks in appreciation of her return.

“It’s been a long road but it felt great to be back out there on the ice,” Kessel said in a postgame news conference. “I wasn’t expecting (the ovation). I knew it was kind of a big deal, but I didn’t expect to have that kind of support. It’s almost overwhelming, but in a good way, to see how I can impact the women’s hockey world.”

Flanked by linemate Hannah Brandt and coach Brad Frost, Frost talked about how she had nightmares of never playing hockey again and how new doctors she met with in August finally told her she would be able to play again.

“They told me I was going to play hockey again and I was going to work through this,” Kessel said. “I wasn’t doing any physical activity to that point, but the new treatment is to attack it. That was the really best thing for me. I would have regret it if I I didn’t get to this point. It was devastating to think I wasn’t going to be able to finish out the year.”

Most of the nervousness of her return was felt last Thursday when Frost and the Gophers announced her return. While she sat in the locker room prior to the start, she said she was  thinking “I can’t believe this is happening,” but by the time she touched the ice she was ready to go.

The Gophers (25-3-1) are ranked third in the country behind Boston College (29-0) and Wisconsin (28-1-1).

Kessel’s return reunited her with Brandt and now Dani Cameranesi. Freshman Sarah Potomak moved to the second line, giving the Gophers two of the most talented lines in hockey.

Kessel last played for the Gophers during the 2012-13 season, during which Minnesota recorded a perfect 41-0-0 mark and won its fifth national title. Kessel led the nation in scoring with a career-high 101 points (46 goals, 55 assists) that season.

Brandt called Kessel the easiest player in the world to play on a line with.

“Anytime you play North Dakota we’re going to be amped up and ready to go, but having Amanda back was a huge boost to that,” She said. “I think everyone was so excited for her just to get another chance to play hockey, to play here at the U of M, and I think the fans are pretty excited. It was just a great night overall and I’m glad our team got the win.”

Following the game, Kessel tweeted:

BC women dominate Beanpot

hockeyeast-bostoncollegeIt’s a sweep for Boston College in the Beanpot this year.

Unlike the men’s squad, which was taken to the brink before eking out a 1-0 overtime victory over Boston University on Monday night, the BC women took the suspense out of the women’s title game with a 7-0 rout over Northeastern.

That BC, 30-0 and No. 1 in the country, won again isn’t surprising. But Northeastern (25-5-1) is ranked sixth in the nation.

Dana Trivigno led BC with a hat trick and one assist.

BU gambling probe ‘over’

hockeyeast-bostonuniversityThe Boston Herald reported Monday that “Boston University coach David Quinn said this week all investigations into the matter of a BU player alleged to have engaged in gambling are finished and there is nothing more to report.”

The story quoted Quinn as saying the probe is done and has been over since September, citing the NCAA investigated and found it was an isolated incident. He also quoted BU Athletics Director Drew Marrochello saying the same thing: “Nothing. It’s done. The NCAA investigated. It’s over,” Marrochello said in the report.

The follow-up story came after it was announced in December that junior forward Nick Roberto was suspended for the entire season.

Irish eyes smiling again

friendship_four_2016The first NCAA Division I hockey games to be played overseas in Ireland earlier this season went over so well that four more teams will be making the trek to Belfast, North Ireland next season for the second annual Friendship Four Tournament.

Over the Thanksgiving break more than 20,000 fans watched UMass Lowell win the inaugural cup over Brown, Colgate and Northeastern.

Next season’s tournament will be held Nov. 25-26 and feature Quinnipiac, Vermont, St. Lawrence and UMass.

The teams were announced Monday. The tournament’s website has travel information for fans looking to join the teams.

I’ll take Iafallo for three, Alex

nchc-minnesotaduluthMinnesota Duluth was in jeopardy (hey, go with it) of falling to Colorado College this past Friday before junior forward Alex Iafallo answered with three goals in UMD’s sweep.

Iafallo tallied two goals in Friday’s 5-3 come-from-behind win and scored the game winner with 2:42 remaining in the series finale for a 3-2 victory.

After losing three straight UMD won three straight before falling to Bemidji State, 2-1, yesterday at home. The Bulldogs are now 11-12-5 with back-to-back road series against NCHC co-leaders North Dakota and St. Cloud State, the second- and third-ranked teams in the country.

Vallis delivers in the clutch

wcha-michiganstateSenior forward Max Vallis had a weekend to remember.

Two of his three goals — which tied for the most in the NCAA last weekend — were game winners that led Michigan Tech to a sweep over Lake Superior State and to the 45th Winter Carnival title.

Tech  (16-7-5 overall) trails Minnesota State by two points for the WCHA title and is off until Feb. 19-20 when it travels to Bemidji State.

Gillam golden again. And again. And …

ecac-cornellCornell goalie Mitch Gillam may be the hottest goalie in college hockey right now.

The junior recorded his fifth shutout of the season when he turned back 32 shots in a 1-0 win over Princeton, and he stopped 39 more shots in a 2-2 tie against No. 1 Qunnipiac.

That’s 71 saves in 73 attempts for the Hobey Baker and Mike Richter candidate. He now owns a 1.89 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage.

Cornell, 12-7-4, will have its hands full Friday against Brown before Saturday’s goalie showdown between Gillam and Yale’s Alex Lyon.

Dave Dondoneau

Dave Dondoneau is a freelance writer based in Honolulu. Follow him on Twitter @DakotaHI.