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.
Boston College standout forward Hannah Bilka began her college hockey career with an early-season surge.
That outburst has helped propel Bilka into the conversation for the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award, presented annually to the top women’s college hockey player in the nation.
“It’s a huge honor,” Bilka said. “There are so many great players in the NCAA and I’ve played against a lot of great players. All my success this year has been through the help of my teammates. It’s just awesome to be part of it all.”
Bilka leads the nation among freshmen with 34 points on 13 goals and 21 assists. She has 10 multi-point games, in addition to three multi-goal games and five games with two or more assists this season. Bilka has factored into six game-winning goals, scoring three, while adding assists on three others.
“Hannah has had a great freshman year for us,” Boston College coach Katie King-Crowley said. “She continues to help spark our offense and we’ll look for her to continue to do that moving forward. She’s a player that loves the game of hockey and it shows every day on the ice through her hard work and her dedication to the team.”
Bilka has made the transition to the college game look smooth in her freshman season, but that doesn’t mean it came easy.
“The speed, for sure, and just the strength and getting faster with the puck,” Bilka said. “Making that split-second decision is definitely a step up from high school.”
Boston College sophomore Kelly Browne helped Bilka make the move to the college game easier. The two were teammates on the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team, which captured a gold medal during the 2018 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship in Dmitrov, Russia.
Bilka and Browne have played on the same line together throughout the season.
“I thought we had a pretty seamless transition, building our chemistry on and off the ice,” Bilka said. “She’s such an easy player to play with and it’s been pretty easy to play with her.”
Bilka’s time with the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team has also helped.
She not only won scored a goal and added two assists in five games at the 2018 World Championships, but Bilka was also part of the silver medal-winning team at the 2019 Under-18 worlds in Obihiro, Japan.
“That was huge, playing against all of the best players in the world,” Bilka said. “I think that’s the top and similar to the college level. I think the speed and competitiveness is pretty close.”
Bilka was named the Hockey East Rookie of the Month and National Rookie of the Month for September and October. She also earned one Player of the Week and two Rookie of the Week honors, contributing to her hot start in college.
“We were really solid in our first 10 games,” Bilka said. “It was so much fun to play and we were rolling. As the games went on, it got harder, but I think it motivated me to keep pushing.”
Bilka feels fortunate to have landed at Boston College.
“There are so many great rookies, and I think the 2019 class is really strong,” Bilka said. “I got pretty lucky to be on a pretty strong team because they make it easy.”
Bilka didn’t factor into a season-opening victory, but she picked up 10 goals and 18 points in her next nine games.
Included in the mix was a four-goal outing during an Oct. 3 victory against Holy Cross. It was the 10th four-goal game in Boston College history. Bilka had two even-strength goals, a power-play tally, short-handed goal and also the game-winner. She finished her hat trick with the short-handed goal 4:09 into the second period, marking the fastest hat trick in NCAA Division I women’s hockey this season.
It was part of the beginning-of-the-season surge that has carried Bilka to this point in the season.
“I just think in the beginning of the season it’s all so new, and you don’t really think about it when you’re in the moment,” Bilka said. “It’s a pretty great accomplishment, and just the first part of the season was really fun, but you have to remember that it’s a long road.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo courtesy of John Quackenbos/BC Athletics.