An award of The USA Hockey Foundation, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award is presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey. The 2020 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner will be announced on March 21 in conjunction with the NCAA Women's Frozen Four in Boston, Mass.
After bursting onto the college hockey scene as a freshman, Alina Mueller isn’t just repeating her standout debut, she’s improving on it.
A star sophomore forward at Northeastern, Mueller is doing it with a greater sense of confidence this season, allowing her to once again enter the conversation for the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award, presented annually to the top women’s college hockey player in the nation.
“I think I grew a lot,” Mueller said. “I played on such a nice team last year. The seniors were nice, we had such great leadership and I learned from them. Now, since they’re gone, I’m trying to step up and do the same thing. This year, we have new great leadership and I’m trying to be a leader, too even though I’m a sophomore. It has been going well.”
Mueller — at 21 already a two-time Olympian and bronze medalist with Switzerland — was named a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award last season as a freshman.
“Last year, it was pretty unreal to be considered for the Patty Kazmaier Award as a freshman,” Mueller said. “I had a lot of fun on the ice last year. It’s just an amazing honor because I know how many great players are in this league.”
Mueller made an immediate impact in her first collegiate season, coming to Northeastern as the reigning MVP of the Swiss Women’s Hockey League A in the 2017-18 season.
She led Northeastern to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament and the Huskies’ second consecutive Hockey East championship. She scored a team-best 21 goals and 51 points, while also adding a 22-game point streak, longest in the NCAA during the 2018-19 season and third-longest in Hockey East history. Not surprisingly, she was named to almost every rookie honor available to her.
“Alina has definitely grown as a player with a year of college hockey under her belt,” Northeastern coach Dave Flint said. “She has elevated her game in every way and has proven to be one of, if not the best, forwards in the country.”
Mueller has scored 20 goals and 54 points as a sophomore, good for a second-place tie nationally. She is a four-time Hockey East Player of the Week and two-time Hockey East Player of the month this season. Mueller is on a current run of six goals and 16 points in Northeastern’s last seven games, which includes a career-high five-point effort during a January win at Vermont.
“I was confident coming into the second half of the season,” Mueller said. “The more important part of the season is now and in the second half, every night is like a championship game.”
Mueller also became the second-fastest player in Northeastern history to reach 100 career points. Mueller hit the mark in 64 games, while former Patty Kazmaier Award winner and Team USA Olympic gold medalist Kendall Coyne Schofield reached the milestone in 59 games. Mueller ranks second in the NCAA with seven game-winning goals, which ties the all-time single-season record at Northeastern, also held by Coyne Schofield.
“It’s pretty amazing when Kendall Coyne’s name pops up and it’s special to see my name close to hers,” Mueller said. “She’s an amazing athlete, I look up to her and I can’t believe that I’m close to her in that aspect.”
Flint feels there is continued room for growth for his talented star forward, who has been among the best in the country in her first two collegiate seasons.
“She has had a great season up to this point,” Flint said. “She comes up with big goals and big plays time and time again.”
The future is also bright for Mueller, who is hitting her stride at just the right time for Northeastern, ranked third in the country as of the most recent poll.
“She is a complete player,” Flint said. “As good as she is offensively, she is just as good defensively. Alina thinks the game and plays the game at another level.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Jim Pierce.