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.
A Patty Kazmaier Award top-three finalist in 2022, Sophie Jaques has once again been one of the best players in the country this season.
The WCHA Player of the Year and conference Defender of the Year in 2023, Jaques totaled 46 points on 22 goals and 24 assists in the regular season. The 22 goals, 46 points, and eight power-play goals led all defenders in the NCAA, while her 217 shots on goal and 5.71 shots on goal per game led the conference.
Jaques is putting up similar numbers to last season while playing for the defending national champion and no longer skating as an under-the-radar defender who burst onto the scene. That means she’s getting every opponent’s best effort, but Jaques welcomes the challenge, saying it makes her and her teammates better.
After Ohio State’s semifinal win over Minnesota Duluth in the WCHA Tournament, UMD coach Maura Crowell called Jaques “a program-changing player on the back end anytime she's on the ice.”
Her own coach, Nadine Muzerall, said that the focus is often on Jaques’ offensive numbers, but pointed out that when Jaques is on the ice for the Buckeyes, the other team does not score.
“She's defense first but happens to be very productive offensively,” Muzerall said. “She’s a dual threat. She doesn't really get beat. It's hard to stop her because her power and strength is unmatched.”
A strong and solid defender who’s not afraid to block shots, Jaques is also adept at finding open ice and sliding behind defenders who lose track of her where she’s able to unload her shot or dish the puck to teammates. Her quick release makes her ability to slip into these spaces even more dangerous.
For Jaques, the line between offense and defense is fluid — both in theory and in practice. Her offseason work has paid off to make her even better in transition when she’s able to quickly turn the tables and give her team an advantage.
“A lot of good offensive chances come from good defensive end play,” Jaques said. “Stopping them off the rush and being able to transition quickly allows for a lot of offensive chances. With good defense, you'll get rewarded offensively.”
A native of Toronto, Ontario, Jaques set the Ohio State program record for career points by a defender when she surpassed 130 in her collegiate career.
Despite already being one of the best at her craft, Jaques said she spent her offseason working on her defense, using the time to improve her skating.
“My defensive play has gotten a lot better and being strong in the defensive zone and making great breakout passes,” she said.
Teammate and fellow top-10 finalist Jenn Gardiner said she loves being on the ice with Jaques because of her playmaking abilities.
“Sophie is unbelievable. She's so strong and so willing to get in the dirty areas and battle for the puck,” Gardiner said. “She's always setting people up. I know when I'm on the ice with Sophie, I have a really good chance to score or make a really good play because she sees the ice so well.”
On top of Jaques’ impressive vision, Gardiner also complimented her teammate’s shot.
“She could score from any area and I don't think anybody in our conference or the country would want to block her shot,” Gardiner said.
In addition to her skill on the ice, Jaques is a superstar off the ice.
She received a fellowship to pursue her master’s degree in civil engineering and is a WCHA All-Academic Team and Scholar-Athlete honoree.
Jaques is on the board of SHEROS, a campus organization that supports and develops female athletes of color at Ohio State. She also volunteers with the 2nd & 7 Foundation in Columbus, which provides free books and positive role models to kids in need.
Muzerall said that Jaques’ combination of her academics, volunteering, outreach and on-ice play make her the type of player that will be impossible to replace.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.