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 on March 27. More details will follow.
It has been a smooth transition to college hockey for Penn State forward Kiara Zanon.
Zanon is the lone freshman and underclassman named by USA Hockey as one of the top-10 finalists for the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, which is presented annually to the top women’s college hockey player in the nation.
“It’s one of the biggest honors someone could receive, especially with me being so young and just starting here,” Zanon said. “But I think a lot of the credit has to go to my teammates and everyone who has gotten me to this point. I would never be here without them and the support of everyone around me at Penn State.”
Transitioning to NCAA Division I hockey can be challenging enough for a college freshman, but there are additional obstacles thrown into the mix this season as teams throughout the country battle the rigors of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zanon has handled it all in stride, as her high school background prepared her for the move.
Zanon, of Fairport, New York, attended prep school for three years and played for Rochester, New York-based Selects Academy at Bishop Kearney.
“I’ve been away from home and I played a lot of different styles of hockey,” Zanon said. “I think those together really helped me prepare for this, so when I got to Penn State, I had a great support system and I was able to come in and focus on playing hockey.”
Zanon isn’t just the only freshman and underclassman on the list for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award this year, she’s the first from Penn State to be named a top-10 finalist.
“I’m so happy for Kiara,” Penn State coach Jeff Kampersal said. “We are proud that Kiara is the first Nittany Lion to be nominated as a top-10 finalist for this prestigious award. As a player, she possesses poise, vision, skill and difference-making change of speed. Most importantly, she is an awesome human being and leader.”
Zanon is the first freshman to be named a top-10 finalist since Princeton’s Sarah Fillier and Northeastern’s Alina Mueller accomplished the feat in 2019. Wisconsin’s Daryl Watts became the first freshman to ever win the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in 2018.
“It means a lot to be the only freshman, and I think the players in the conversation besides myself are all people I’ve looked up to,” Zanon said. “Before I came to college, and now even in college, being in the same conversation as some of those names, and obviously looking at the people who won it in previous years is something special.”
Zanon helped lead Penn State to the No. 7 ranking in the country. She leads all rookies and is third nationally among all players with 10 goals and 30 points in 21 games.
“I think it’s going really well, but I’m still trying to get better every day,” Zanon said. “I hope to continue to improve down the road in the next four or five years.”
Zanon posted a program-best six-point game with one goal and five assists during a 7-1 victory against Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in February. Zanon either scored or assisted on seven game-winning goals this season. Zanon smashed past program records, including points per game and assists per game. Her nine multi-point games set a new program record despite playing just 21 games this season.
“There have been a lot of great players who have come through Penn State, so it means a lot to have that kind of recognition and your name beside these records,” Zanon said. “But all of the credit goes to my teammates and my linemates because I wouldn’t be in the position of breaking these records without them.”
Kampersal said the difference between Zanon and others is her tireless work ethic.
“She spends many extra hours on the ice, during the season and during the summer, mastering her craft,” Kampersal said. “Kiara embodies all of the wonderful qualities that define Patty and the Kazmaier family.”
Prior to her time at Penn State, Zanon also achieved USA Hockey success.
Zanon helped the U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team capture a fifth gold medal in the last six years in 2020. It was the eighth gold medal for the Under-18 women in international play and 13th consecutive medal overall. Zanon is currently sharing a room at Penn State with Lyndie Lobdell, a defender on that gold-medal winning team.
Zanon played a significant role in the deciding contest, as she tallied the game-winning goal in the team’s 2-1 overtime win against Canada to clinch the gold medal.
“I think those were some of the best years of my life,” Zanon said. “That was a goal of mine and to finally be able to reach that and wear that jersey was the best honor I could’ve received.”
Zanon was also a member of the silver-medal winning U.S. Under-18 Women’s National Team in 2019 and she played on a pair of U.S. Under-18 Women’s Select Teams.
“Having a chance to play with and against the best players in the world is something special and something you can never take for granted,” Zanon said. “It was two of the best years of my life and I look forward to hopefully continuing that down the road.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Penn State Athletics.