It wasn’t exactly an unintended consequence. However there was a tinge of irony attached to the Wisconsin’s wildly successful “Fill the Bowl” promotion for last Saturday’s game with rival Minnesota.
Not only did the Badgers pull in 10,668 spectators to the Kohl Center — thereby smashing to smithereens all women’s college hockey attendance records — they also presented Minnesota with the largest hostile crowd any team in the sport had ever faced.
That put Gophers freshman Amanda Kessel, who happens to hail from Madison, at odds with a building full of her own townies.
Without honor in her own home town, as it were.
“That was unreal,” said Kessel, who is among Minnesota’s scoring leaders. “We knew they were trying to get a large crowd. But we didn’t expect that much.”
Now, fan support at Minnesota’s games has been relatively strong, too. Still, stepping on to the ice for warmup, seeing a building full of people — for or against — produced quite a feeling of sensation.
“It was a different experience,” she said. “I wish we could get that many people at a lot of games. Not many of them were our fans, so that was a little bit difficult. They (the Badgers) played off of that.”
Kessel said that once the puck was dropped, though, she may as well have been back at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, or even back in the Kessel’s yard in Madison, going at it with her brothers Phil (yes, that Phil Kessel) and Blake.
“Once you got out there playing, you didn’t really notice it as much,” she said. “But still, it was a great experience. The most people that pretty much anyone out there had played in front of.”
If all goes well, Kessel may someday find herself playing in front of some Olympic-sized crowds.
She took a step in that direction this week when she was named, along with 26 other skaters, to the preliminary roster for the U.S. National Team, which will contend at the IIHF World Championships in Switzerland.
“Any time you get invited to that kind of stuff, it’s a great opportunity,” said Kessel, who made the 2010 Four Nations Cup team, but had to back out because of an injury. “It’s a big challenge, but it’s fun, too. To be around the best in the country. It’s great competition.”
It’s not like she ever had to go far to find a competitive game. Her brothers were only too happy to oblige her.
“I think it’s something that runs in the family,” Kessel said. “Just wanting to win so bad and doing anything that we can.”
After all of that sibling play, it’s only natural that Kessel’s game would take on some of that familial polish. A goal scorer like Phil, it became only natural that her game would begin to resemble that of the future Boston Bruin and Toronto Maple Leaf.
“I think we have a similar game,” she said. “A lot people say when they watch us that we look exactly the same. That we play a lot alike. He’s got a little bit more of a scoring touch, where I like to pass the puck a little bit more. That’s the only difference. Our skating styles are similar, and so is the way we carry ourselves out there.”
Being able to sharpen her offensive chops against Blake, a defenseman at UNH and a New York Islanders prospect, has had its own benefit.
“He’ll let me go one-on-one with him,” she said. “I never really get by him. But he’ll give me different pointers of things I can use against (other) girls. He’s been a big influence.”
Kessel is undecided about her major for the moment, but is unwavering in her future career hopes.
“I have a few things in mind,” she said. “One is to stay around the game of hockey. Maybe get involved with a team in some aspect. Or maybe have a business career.”
Business, huh? Well, there aren’t many — if any — female hockey agents around. And she just might have an inside track on a couple guys, should she decide to skate that lane.
“I’ve talked about that with my parents a few times,” she said, “about going down that road.”
NOTES: Kessel was on the ice at the Kohl Center Friday night when Phil, to his chagrin, was made the final pick in the NHL All-Star Classic player draft.
She said she commiserated with her big brother for a while
“I felt a little bad,” she said. “But then thinking about being in that game is an accomplishment. Anytime you can make it (to All-Stars) is a good opportunity.”