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 2023 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner will be announced on March 18 in conjunction with the NCAA Women's Frozen Four in Duluth, Minnesota.
The top-three finalists are expected to be announced on Wednesday, March 8.
Taylor Heise followed up her Patty Kazmaier Award-winning year by matching her output from last season in fewer games and far fewer shots on goal.
The Minnesota standout is looking to become the first back-to-back winner in the 25-year history of this award, as she received the honors in 2022. Heise was named WCHA Forward of the Year for the second straight year and leads the nation in goals (29) and is second in total points (65).
“Last year wasn’t a fluke,” Heise said. “When you have a really good year and people are expecting even more from you, that's a lot of pressure. I think this year, I kind of took all the pressure and all the things that mounted on my shoulders and kind of just threw them to the side.”
“Last year was my gotcha moment. I know how good I am, I know how much time I’ve spent trying to perfect my game to where it is now.”
Heise has a confidence born of years of skipping playdates and school functions and having most of her friends think she was a bit crazy while she spent hours and days practicing her skating, her puck-handling, and her shot.
She said it’s also born of a long time second-guessing herself and letting herself down. That self-doubt is gone now, and she is content to live in the knowledge that she can count on her training, her instincts and her talent and play a great game.
That’s one of the reasons she and teammate Grace Zumwinkle — a fellow top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier — get along. The two play on different lines and have markedly different styles of play, but their focus and their goals are the same. Meeting Zumwinkle helped Heise feel more comfortable with who she is.
“Me and her are in the same mindset of what we want to do in the future and where we want to be in hockey,” Heise said of Zumwinkle. “She understands me. I think when you find someone like that, you have to hold on to them because she gets me. She understands why I do what I do.”
Before this season, Heise focused on connecting her passes, being more deceptive with the puck, and the details of her skating so her strides are more efficient, and her edges allow her to turn and get away from the boards or out of traffic more quickly.
She wanted to work on her ability to hold the puck so she can draw defenders to her, freeing up her teammates. Both Heise and Minnesota coach Brad Frost commented on how much she loves to pass.
“She's thinking pass a lot, which is pretty crazy because of her ability to score,” Frost said. “She has an innate ability to kind of see things that others don't. She has that ability to know where the puck not only is, but where it's going, and has that ability to get there before anybody else can.”
Heise’s love of passing is one of the obvious outward signs of her desire to, as she puts it “have everyone in the boat” with her. While she is a vocal leader, she’s also someone who prides herself on setting the tone. She has high expectations of her teammates and will push them hard, but she’ll also be doing all the hard work right alongside them.
“You're just not going to find too many people that are more confident in who they are, not just as a player, but more importantly, as a person,” Frost said. “Taylor's an incredibly bright, intelligent and outgoing person. She's our vocal leader. She's the type of player that brings people along to improve their game and to improve who they are as people.”
There isn’t much for Heise to accomplish individually, but she returned to Minneapolis this season with her focus on the national title and one more season with her teammates.
She’s saying yes to more things away from the rink with her teammates. Sometimes that’s socializing, but oftentimes it’s delivering stuffed animals to the Masonic Children’s Hospital or reading to school children. She’s trying to really slow down and be present to enjoy more of the points along the way.
“I’ve tried to take this extra year more with a sense of gratitude,” she said. “I’m going into every game and remembering that I’m lucky that I'm able to play, that I'm healthy, that I have great linemates, great teammates that are there to support me.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.