Amanda Kessel carries the puck through the neutral zone in the gold-medal game against Canada during the 2017 Women's World Championship. Photo by Matt Raney.
If you watched any of the Women’s World Championships that just ended you definitely noticed Amanda Kessel. She was that blue blur with the number 28 in white on her back. Kessel had a ridiculously good season in the NWHL to the tune of 18 points in eight games and one point in the only New York Riveters playoff game.
With the Rivs, Kessel was the most talented player every night that she suited up, but with Team USA’s loaded roster she was a key cog in a well-oiled machine that just swept four games and clinched their fourth consecutive gold medal victory (over Canada) in the tournament. The USWNT, with one day of practice after coming to terms with USA Hockey, outscored their opponents 28-5 in the five games they played.
Kessel and Kelli Stack were a dynamic part of the second power-play unit that would follow the Brianna Decker-Kendall Coyne-Hilary Knight top unit, and the duo was dazzling each time they took the ice. In tournaments like this it;’s amazing the sacrifices that stars make, putting their egos aside for the better of the team. That’s what every woman on this team did, and Kessel - who was considered one of the top players in women’s hockey before her concussion in Sochi - was no different.
Amanda Kessel (middle) celebrates with her teammates. Photo by Matt Raney
Her first international goal since February 17, 2014, was the eventual game-winner against Team Russia, a 7-0 whitewashing, and it was vintage Kessel — as you see her speed, determination and deft scoring ability all in one sequence.
With the creation of the NWHL two years ago, players like Kessel now have more opportunities to prep themselves for their ultimate goal: winning a gold medal at the 2018 Olympics, and erasing the pain of the silver medal at the 2014 Olympics.
“You’re not going there to try and win a medal, you’re going there to win a gold medal and that’s been on my mind ever since 2014,” Kessel told us about her burning desire to make it back to the 2018 Olympics. 12 of the 23 women who just won gold at the Worlds were playing in the NWHL this past season, and they were all in fantastic shape because of the high level of competition in the just-completed second season.
“It’s been really good for me and that was another reason why I came to the Rivs,” Kessel mentioned at the end of the season. “Some of the other teams were stacked, and every game would be very challenging. I thought that would be fun and something good for me. Every single shift and game have been a challenge.”
Challenge accepted and passed: Kessel had six points over the five games in the tournament. You can write it down in ink that she will be part of the team that the Stars and Stripes send to the 2018 Winter Olympics.