The 2020 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner will be announced on Friday (March 27) at 1:30 p.m. ET. on USA Hockey's YouTube and Facebook channels. 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.
Princeton standout Sarah Fillier enjoyed a dynamic freshman year, but struggled to settle into a rhythm at the start of her second season. Fillier has since found her groove and has entered the conversation for the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award, presented annually to the top women’s college hockey player in the nation.
“I had a little bit of trouble at the beginning of the year learning how to continue to produce at the same level as my freshman year,” Fillier said. “At the beginning, it felt as though I wasn’t putting up as many points as I did last year. But I had to focus on other goals like scoring chances and efficiency in that.”
Fillier was named a top-10 finalist last season as a freshman for the 2019 Patty Kazmaier Award.
“It was crazy and definitely super unexpected,” Fillier said. “I came in my freshman year sort of not knowing how everything worked. I showed up every day, worked hard, embraced the experience and was lucky enough to be in that conversation. It’s exciting and definitely an honor.”
The honor takes on additional meaning and significance for Fillier, as the Patty Kazmaier Award is named in honor of the late Patty Kazmaier-Sandt, a four-year varsity letterwinner and All-Ivy League defenseman at Princeton from 1981-86.
Kazmaier-Sandt, who also played field hockey and lacrosse, helped lead Princeton to the Ivy League championship in three consecutive seasons. Kazmaier-Sandt passed away on Feb. 15, 1990 at the age of 28 following a long struggle with a rare blood disease.
“It’s definitely motivating during the season when I walk to the rink every day and see her picture and the banner,” Fillier said. “I feel like it’s a lot more special since Patty Kazmaier went to Princeton.”
Fillier was the NCAA leading scorer as a freshman with 22 goals and 57 points in 29 games. She was also named National Rookie of the Year and Second Team All-American last season.
“I feel like points are definitely a big thing in this league, and everybody pays attention to it, but sometimes getting caught up in that sets unnecessary pressure on yourself,” Fillier said. “After having a great, record-breaking season, I think it’s easy to get caught up in the past and compare yourself. Setting small goals has helped us remain in the present.”
Fillier currently ranks top 10 in the nation in scoring with 16 goals and 43 points. Fillier twice earned NCAA Star of the Week in November and January, and she also took ECAC honors in consecutive weeks in November. She tallied her 100th career point last Friday with a goal against St. Lawrence.
Fillier enjoyed a five-assist and six-point night in December, the first time in 14 years a Princeton player pulled off the feat. A month later, Fillier had a five-point game in a big home win against Saint Anselm.
“I think it took me a little bit to get going and realize that teams have a year’s worth of video on us and me,” Fillier said. “The tendencies that worked last year, it took a bit of learning and trying to find new skills to beat other team’s systems and game plans. Personally, we do a lot of work with tracking scoring chances, so we focus on that more than goals and assists.”
That type of next-level realization has helped Fillier grow in her second season at Princeton.
“I came in as a wide-eyed freshman, just trying to take in all the information that I could,” Fillier said. “Coming in this year, I definitely took a different role on the team, trying to step in and be more of a leader. I wanted to take on a bigger role collectively as a team, not focused on myself or my success.”
Fillier took on that role when she was named one of the co-captains at Princeton this season as a sophomore.
“It’s definitely a special moment,” Fillier said. “I feel like our team has a lot of capable leaders, but it’s exciting to be in that group. It was unexpected, but it was a special moment.”
Fillier has created a number of special moments throughout a standout sophomore season at Princeton.
“The main thing is not to be satisfied,” Fillier said. “It doesn’t matter what you did last weekend or last year, it’s about the upcoming weekend. That’s been really motivating to me.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Shelley Szwast.