Later today, one player will be named the 2017 Patty Kazmaier Award winner from among the top-3 finalists of Ann Renee Desbiens, Cayley Mercer and Lara Stalder, all seniors with their last chance at the top honor.
Whoever is recognized as this year’s top player in NCAA Division I women's ice hockey will enter a very prestigious group, but a deeper look into the history of women’s college hockey shows several talented women among those who have made the top-10.
“Those that have won this award are among an elite class of talented college players but that should not diminish the outstanding accomplishments of the others who have finished among the top-10,” said Sarah Fraser, Chair of the NCAA Women's Ice Hockey Committee and top-3 finalist in 1998. “In fact, that foundation of players overall is the who’s who of high profile players that have gone on to impact the sport and continued their amazing careers.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the award after seeing Brandy Fisher named the inaugural winner in 1998. During that span, only one player - Jennifer Botterill - has earned the honor twice, having won in 2001 and 2003. Angela Ruggiero, the 2004 recipient, is the only defenseman to win the award while Jessie Vetter (2009) and Ali Brewer (2000) are the only two goaltenders to win the award. Desbiens, a top-three finalist for the second straight year, looks to become the third netminder to be honored.
2004 honoree Angela Ruggiero is the only defenseman to win the Patty Kaz Award
There has been a strong trend of Americans winning the award. Of the 19 past winners, 13 are from the U.S. and six are from Canada. Wisconsin is home to four winners, while three come from Ontario and three from Massachusetts.
Furthermore, five of the last six honorees have been American-born players, but this year’s finalists include a pair of Canadians (Desbiens, Mercer) and Stalder, a native of Luzern, Switzerland.
Other European players competing in the NCAA have been nominated for the award previously but a win by Stalder would mark the first time a player outside of North American heritage wins the award.
Meghan Agosta, a three-time Olympian for Canada and MVP in 2010, is the only player to be a top-3 finalist four times yet not win the award. She also currently stands as the all-time NCAA leader with 303 points and 157 goals during her four years at Mercyhurst University.
A breakdown of the first 19 Patty Kaz Award winners
Several other prominent players have been nominated and made the top-10, which is a tremendous accomplishment in itself with the deep pool of talented college players.
To put it into perspective, Natalie Darwitz’s 114-point campaign in 2005 for the University of Minnesota still holds as the most points scored in a single season in NCAA history. However, the award that year went to Krissy Wendell, a fellow Gopher who also had an impressive campaign.
The Olympic cycle often interrupts a player’s four-year run of collegiate competition but Hannah Brandt and Maria Rooth are the only players to be in the top-10 four consecutive years, including two years as a top-3 finalist for Brandt.
Brandt noted “We’re all competitors and want to win but it’s a very special honor to those of us who have been a part of that group and is something that we will always share and be extremely proud of.”
For a full list of previous winners, click here.