PLYMOUTH, Mich. (AP) Amanda Kessel rediscovered just how good it feels to score a goal for your country.
The American forward missed more than 1 1/2 years after the 2014 Winter Olympics because of a concussion. There were times during her long recovery when Kessel wondered if she’d ever represent her country again.
She scored her first international goal in more than two years Saturday in the United States’ 7-0 win over Russia at the women’s world hockey championship.
Kessel and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson combined on an odd-man rush with Kessel pouncing on a rebound to score the first goal of the game.
”I kind of feel like I got a monkey off my back,” Kessel said. ”I was kind of itching for that first one to give you more confidence. With every game I feel better and better.
”It makes you really appreciate the game and what you miss. I really cherish every moment now.”
The 25-year-old sister of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel also had an assist in the Americans’ second win in two days to open the world championship.
Lamoureux-Davidson, Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne each scored twice for the defending champions. Madeline Rooney stopped all 14 shots she faced to give the U.S. a second straight shutout, a day after Nicole Hensley turned away 18 in a 2-0 win over Canada.
Maria Sorokina had 27 saves for Russia (1-1).
Kessel had last scored for the U.S. in a 6-1 win over Sweden in the Sochi Olympics semifinal. She’d tripped and went head first into the boards in a scrimmage prior to the Winter Games. She played in the Olympics but experienced concussion symptoms through the summer.
Kessel didn’t appear in a game again until February 2016 when she rejoined the University of Minnesota. Kessel played for the U.S. in a two-game exhibition series against Canada in December, but didn’t record a point.
”She brings her speed to the game, and her vision,” Decker said. ”Getting a couple more games under her belt, she’s going to settle in that much more.”
Watching her brother win the Stanley Cup last year inspired Kessel.
”It was really emotional actually watching him go through that,” she said. ”I was able to go to pretty much every playoff game because I’d just ended college. … Seeing what they went through and how hard it is to win that is super special.”
The Americans scored in bunches Saturday with two goals in less than a minute in the second period and another two in the final 19 seconds of the game.
”It’s just those lapses we’ve got to get rid of,” Russian forward Iya Gavrilova said. ”We just get too offensive with those teams and you can’t allow that. … You have to play disciplined and it’s hard sometimes when you have a chance to put the pressure on.”
Olga Sosina and Anna Shukina were back in Russia’s lineup after serving one-game suspensions for taking match penalties in an exhibition game against Switzerland earlier in the week. They missed Russia’s 2-1 win over Finland on Friday.