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 2021 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner will be announced at a later date and more information will follow.
Wisconsin senior standout forward Daryl Watts is back in a familiar place — in the conversation for the annual Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. She was named a top-three finalist on March 18.
Last season, as a junior, Watts — the 2018 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner — was also a top-10 finalist for the prestigious honor, which is presented annually to the top women’s college hockey player in the nation.
“It’s always an honor to be in the conversation for the Patty Kaz award,” Watts said. “It’s definitely cool. I’ve been lucky to play with some great players throughout my four years.”
Watts has been in the mix three of her four years in college, including the current season. She became the first freshman to ever win the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in 2018 while playing at Boston College. Watts led the nation in scoring with 42 goals and 82 points in just 38 games, recording points in 32 of 34 regular-season games and multiple points in 25 contests.
Watts, who transferred to Wisconsin after her sophomore year, said the 2018 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award she won as a freshman is currently at her home.
“It definitely means a lot because you can look at it as the most valuable player of the year, but at the same time, I’ve been through it twice, winning it my freshman year and being a top-10 finalist last year,” Watts said. “Patty Kazmaier is obviously a legend and a trailblazer for women’s hockey, so to get an award in her name is an honor. But at the end of the day, all that I want, all that my teammates want is to win a national championship, so I’m really focused on that right now.”
Watts and the Badgers were WCHA champions and set to face Clarkson in the NCAA quarterfinals last March before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the tournament.
Watts, a three-time All-American, broke the Badgers’ single-season assists record last season and was the only player in the NCAA to average more than two points per game. She scored 25 goals and led the country with 49 assists and an NCAA-best 74 points.
She is aiming to leave no doubt this season, and neither are the Badgers, the consensus top-ranked team in the country.
Watts led the nation with 19 goals, including the game-winning goal in overtime to claim the Badgers second straight national championship, and ranked second in the nation with 36 points. She also has a league-high average of 1.94 points per contest. The WCHA Forward of the Month for January recorded points in her first 11 games, including a seven-game goal streak, which tied the fourth-longest stretch in school history, and also was her personal best at Wisconsin.
“I think I got off to a slow start this year, and I think it had to do with not playing hockey for so many days because of the pandemic,” Watts said. “But I’m now comfortable with my game and I’m playing the way I expect myself to play.”
Longtime Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson sees growth from Watts.
“She continues to get better and continues to work hard,” Johnson said. “And a lot of the times, when she’s on the ice, not only is she a scoring threat, but the way she passes the puck, her linemates and teammates become scoring threats. She is a good player that understands and has a lot of confidence in her abilities. The game is slower for her than it is for someone else.”
Watts has witnessed improvement in her game over the years, whether it’s strength and conditioning, or just her understanding of the college game and its subtle nuances. One thing is certain, Watts feels she’s a much more disciplined player, which she hopes will translate into a national championship at Wisconsin, and maybe another Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award.
“Once the puck drops on gameday, all you’re thinking about is winning,” Watts said. “One of my roles on the team is to score goals, and not to put too much pressure on myself, but I just do whatever I have to do to help my team win.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Tom Lynn.