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.
After being a Patty Kazmaier top-three finalist in 2020-2021, Grace Zumwinkle took a year off to prioritize playing with Team USA and win a silver medal at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.
She returned to the Minnesota Golden Gophers for 2022–23 to have the best season of her career.
The tall, steady left winger uses her size to her advantage in every part of the game. She’s deceptively fast, with a long and powerful stride. She battles for space in front of the net, wins pucks along the boards, and has what teammate Taylor Heise — fellow top-10 finalist and last year’s Patty Kazmaier Award winner — says is the best shot in the league.
“She loves to drive the net and make it messy,” said Minnesota head coach Brad Frost. “Sometimes she'll score and other times she'll create rebounds for her linemates, but she is dominant every time she's on the ice because of her size, speed and strength.”
While Zumwinkle has long been known for her power, and that’s still at the core of who she is as a hockey player, Frost said she’s also shown tremendous growth in her overall game and that’s what has been on display this season.
“Her game has progressed where she's not just an offensive threat anymore,” Frost said. “A lot of her goals start from really solid play in the defensive zone and then transition into the offensive zone. She has that determination to protect that puck and use her size to her advantage.”
For her part, Zumwinkle said this season she has focused on the details and nuances of the game. She has worked on play from the top of the circles down, looking for more options instead of just trying to power a shot through the opponent.
That approach has led her to tally eight more assists this season than she had in the previous two seasons combined. Overall, she has 60 points on 25 goals and 35 assists for 1.62 points per game, all of which are top five in the country. On a team stacked with offensive talent, Zumwinkle has stood out with her play in the clutch. Her nine game-winning goals are tied for best in the country.
Zumwinkle’s style of leadership is less outwardly vocal and more reassuring, which shows on the ice. She has not taken a penalty this season and has just 11 over the course of her college career. She prefers to trust in the training and work she has done and rely on it to carry her through, she said.
Frost described her as having a quiet confidence, but Zumwinkle said one of the things she learned in her year with the national team was humility, as well as how to be a great teammate and the importance that has in how a team can succeed.
Frost noticed Zumwinkle came back to the Gophers with a better understanding of team dynamics and an empathy that enhanced what he said was already a deep and abiding care and concern for her teammates.
“I think one of the coolest things that she brought back was the understanding of how hard it is to be on the fourth line,” Frost said. “It's a hard role, but she was able to experience that and learn from it, grow from it and not be negative about it at all.”
Frost said Zumwinkle is usually the first player to sign up for volunteering opportunities and rounds up teammates to join her. She is known to attend youth hockey games for kids connected to the program or that she’s met through volunteering and coaching to lend support. She spends time giving back at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, Special Olympics Minnesota, Loaves and Fishes and Feed My Starving Children. She also carries a 4.00 GPA while majoring in finance.
While she’s stoic and imposing on the ice, Zumwinkle is the caretaker of the group who is always looking out for her teammates, said Frost.
“Grace is never concerned about her numbers. She just wants to do anything she can to help the team — and that's both on and off the ice,” Frost said. “She just has that personality of care and concern for people.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.