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Amanda Kessel, U.S. women eye ice hockey redemption against Canada

Americans drop prelim to rivals, but are favored to meet again in for Winter Olympic gold next week in South Korea.

Amanda Kessel and the United States fell, 2-1,

Amanda Kessel and the United States fell, 2-1, to Canada on Tuesday in their final preliminary round game before the start of the Winter Olympics' women's ice hockey tournament. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Ronald Martinez

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA — When Amanda Kessel came back from her first Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, she was forced to carry two burdens that would define the next four years: a silver medal and concussion symptoms.

Both were devastating. Both were motivational.

An iconic gold medal hockey game against Canada ended in anguish for the United States, losing in overtime. It wasn’t until Kessel returned to the University of Minnesota for her senior season that she started feeling concussion symptoms sustained after crashing into the boards headfirst during a pre-Olympics scrimmage. She had no choice but to sit out for the entire year.

Long past her lost year, Kessel, who most recently played for the National Women’s Hockey League Riveters franchise when it was based in Brooklyn, has worked to make a gold-plated comeback in Pyeongchang.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Kessel, 26. “It’s something I didn’t know if I’d be back. really just taking in every moment that I’m here.”

A reminder of that silver pain reared its head Thursday when the United States. fell to Canada, 2-1, in their final preliminary round game of the Olympic tournament. It was another bitter defeat to the neighbors up north in the Olympics, in which the Canadians have won the past four gold medals. (The Americans, however, have emerged victorious in eight of the last 10 IIHF World Championships, each time beating Canada in the final.)

On Thursday, American forward Kendall Coyne scored the lone U.S. goal in a potential preview of this year’s gold medal match.

Kessel had an active game on the second line, alongside Hannah Brandt and Dani Cameranesi. The trio of former Golden Gophers and NCAA champions with noticeable chemistry could not capitalize on their 12 combined shots, half of which came from Wisconsin native Kessel.

“I think we had put together a strong game,” Kessel said. “It’s frustrating when nothing goes in, but I think we gotta look back and see the chances that we created and feel good about it.”

The competition grew scrappy as tensions flared, the United States struggling to find the back of the net after Coyne’s tally despite peppering 45 shots on goal through three periods.

“We put [up] a great effort, and I think we put some doubt in the Canadians’ minds.”

A spot in the gold medal game isn’t guaranteed for the Americans, but neither was Kessel’s return to hockey. While she can only do so much to control the lingering headaches, she has the opportunity to relieve the recurring pain of past Olympic heartache.

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