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 2022 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner presentation is scheduled for Saturday, March 26.
Northeastern standout forward Alina Mueller is certainly accustomed to the spotlight after playing in three of the most significant women’s hockey tournaments in the span of six months.
Mueller isn’t a stranger to individual success either, as the senior was named a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award for the fourth consecutive season. She’s the first-ever four-time finalist from Northeastern, one of four to be named a top-10 finalist in four consecutive seasons and seventh four-time finalist in the history of the award.
“I have so much respect for all the players in the league, and of course these other players who were nominated, they’re phenomenal,” Mueller said. “Just having my name up there with them is unreal.”
The Patty Kazmaier Award is presented annually to the top women’s college hockey player in the nation. Mueller has been nominated as a top-10 finalist each of her four seasons at Northeastern. As a sophomore, Mueller scored 27 goals and 66 points — tied for second in the nation — when she was named a top-three finalist for the award.
“I mean, the biggest award in female college hockey … to be there every time since my freshman year is really special,” Mueller said. “But that’s what I expect from me, just to be the best every day and to treat every game like it’s a championship. It just helps me to play consistent, and so far it has worked out well and the hard work has paid off.”
Mueller’s season started in August with the Switzerland national team during the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship. But a bit of adversity also struck when Mueller injured her ankle in the second game, which forced her to miss about six weeks of the 2021-2022 season at Northeastern.
“I feel great now,” Mueller said. “But everything happens for a reason and it was good that I was injured because it would’ve been a really long season and a lot of hockey. It kind of forced me to have a break.”
Last month, Mueller made her third Olympic appearance with Switzerland in Beijing, where the team finished in fourth place. Mueller scored four goals and 10 points in seven tournament games and was the top scorer among all players who didn’t play for either Team USA or Canada. Mueller previously won an Olympic bronze medal in 2014 when she was just 15 years old.
“I was really happy that I could play my best hockey when I needed to,” Mueller said. “We had so much fun as a team and everybody bought in and tried to be there for each other. I didn’t try to focus on scoring goals, but just paying attention to the details and starting the game from defense out because I knew that if I played well in the defensive zone, the plays were going to come in the offensive zone.”
Mueller said the lead-up to the Olympics was difficult with COVID-19 procedures and testing in place before going to Beijing. Those weeks felt isolating, she said, as she tried to prepare for the Games. Mueller said it helped that she played in her third Olympic Winter Games and not her first.
“I kind of knew what to expect on the ice, so I could really focus on my mental health, so that was really important,” Mueller said. “I was able to prepare for every possible scenario that could happen and that helped me focus on hockey, enjoy the experience and still be at my best.”
Mueller has only appeared in 20 of 37 games at Northeastern, but she is averaging two points per game, which is tops in the nation. She is the only player in the country with more than 30 points who has appeared in 20 games or less.
“Alina is arguably one of the best 200-foot players in the game right now,” Northeastern coach Dave Flint said. “She’s a true hockey player who works tirelessly day in and day out to improve her game. She’s a go-to player in every situation. Our team goes as Alina goes because of how competitive she is and how supportive she is of her teammates. She leads the nation in points per game, but she’s even more excited when her teammates contribute.”
That support manifested itself in a big way on the ice when Mueller became the Northeastern record holder in career assists with 123 and counting. The assists record at Northeastern previously stood since 1989 by Northeastern Hall of Fame inductee Fiona Rice. Mueller is also third in program scoring with 194 points, seventh in career goals with 71 and second in game-winning goals behind Kendall Coyne Schofield, the 2016 recipient of the Patty Kazmaier Award.
Mueller is proud of breaking the Northeastern assist record.
“It’s pretty unreal,” Mueller said. “I had no idea about it, but I think this record fits me the most. I’m enjoying this role and I’m so happy if I can set somebody up to put the puck in the net.”
Mueller is also happy for her teammates’ success. Mueller, along with Northeastern goaltender Aerin Frankel and standout defenseman Skylar Fontaine, were all nominated as top-10 finalists for the second consecutive season. Frankel won the award last season.
“All three of us love it here,” Mueller said. “It’s a testament to the program. We would give anything for this program and the people here and it makes me proud that I’m in the running with my two amazing teammates. I hope the award is going to stay in Boston with the Huskies.”
Regardless, Mueller is pleased with how her senior season is going. It started at the World Championships then followed with the Olympics. Mueller led Northeastern to its fifth consecutive Hockey East Championship and another national championship run for the Huskies, who finished as runners-up during the 2020-2021 season.
“I just tried to take it one step at a time or one tournament at a time because if I was only looking forward to playoffs or the Olympics, it wouldn’t have worked out,” Mueller said. “It’s helpful that after one highlight, the next one comes, so I don’t have time to think about how I performed or what happened. I’m just able to enjoy it and play high-level games every week, so it’s cool.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.