2013 Patti Kazmaier Award winner and US Olympian Amanda Kessel is skating and working out with Minnesota.
Kessel, one of the best women's hockey players in the world, has dealt with post-concussion issues since playing in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The 24 year-old has yet to play a game collegiality for the Gophers (18-3-3, 13-3-0-0 WCHA in 2015-16) or internationally since.
"(Amanda) has, as many of you know, been here on campus for the bulk of the season now. In regards to school, she had a great semester academically," Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said to reporters Tuesday."You may see her around the rink now as she is skating a little bit and testing the waters and progressing in her rehab."
The team announced in September 2014 that she would not return to Minnesota due to lingering concussions.
Kessel spent that year rehabbing in Georgia, saying at the time, "As someone who has played through a lot of injuries, it wasn't until suffering a concussion that I full understood the importance of being 100% 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 in the future." This year she has been in Minnesota working towards her degree and exercising all fall.
(Kessel declined to comment today via a University of Minnesota spokesperson.)
Despite only playing three seasons from 2010 to 2013, the Madison native is fifth all-time for the Gophers in career points (231) and goals (97). Kessel finished her junior season in 2012-13 with 101 points (46G-55A) in 41 games, being named the Patti Kazmaier Award winner as the top player in women's college hockey as Minnesota went undefeated en route to its second consecutive national championship.
Still, there is no guarantee that Kessel returns to playing college hockey this season. There remain unknowns, Frost said.
However, that she is skating and working out is a bigger step than thought six months ago, as Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald wrote in July 2015.
Kessel has one semester of collegiate eligibility remaining after redshirting both for the 2013-14 season (Olympics) and 2014-15.
Maryanne Menefee no longer on the Gophers
One of Kessel's linemates from that undefeated 2012-13 season, Maryanne Menefee, is not coming back to Minnesota for her senior year.
"Maryanne hadn't played for us in the first half," Frost said. "Over break we've come to a mutual understanding and decision between her and us as a staff that she'd no longer be on team as she focuses on some other things."
At the beginning of the season Frost said that Menefee, who had 23 goals and 24 assists in 39 games during her junior season, would be out indefinitely.
She remains in school and is on track to graduate in May. Menefee would have the option to redshirt and play in 2016-17. The East Lansing, MI native could also turn pro, having been drafted by the NWHL Connecticut Whale (albeit Menefee could also be a free agent given the non-binding nature of last June's draft).
Hannah Brandt's status up in the air for this weekend
After missing only a single game in her three-and-a-half year career for an international tournament, Brandt did not dress for either of Minnesota's victories (3-1 and 9-0) over Ohio State last weekend.
She also was held out to rest various injuries during Wednesday's 5-4 exhibition loss to the Minnesota Whitecaps.
Her status for the weekend's series against Minnesota State will be decided later in the week. Without Brandt, Kelly Pannek joined Dani Cameranesi and Sarah Potomak on the top line against the Buckeyes. The Gophers only dressed 11 forwards.
Brandt is third nationally averaging 2.16 points per game.
Gopher commits out at the U-18 Women's World Junior Championships
Nine signed and verbal Minnesota commits, led by captain Patti Marshall and goaltender Alex Gulstene, are in St. Catharines, Ontario this week playing for Team USA in the U-18 Women's World Junior Championships. The Americans are led by Minnesota associate head coach Joel Johnson, who last year coached Team USA - including current freshman Sophie Skarzynski - to a gold medal over Canada (captained by Potomak).
The tournament runs until Friday
So far the Americans are undefeated in group play, having won its group with a 4-1 victory over Canada where Gulstene made 33 saves. Team USA next plays in the semifinals Thursday.
For more information on the commits, check out Nicole Haase's USA preview for The Victory Press.
One for the road
Last but not least, go read this Vice article on Minnesota having one of the best and most ignored dynasties or else contribute to its main point.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate