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Kaz Watch: Wisconsin’s Caroline Harvey Creates Elite Offense Through Her Great Defense

03/11/2024, 11:45am MDT
By Nicole Haase

Adversity this season has renewed her love of the game and lent a maturity and confidence to her development as a leader.

Sophomore Caroline Harvey, in her Wisconsin red and white uniform, shoots the puck toward the net.

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 2024 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner will be announced on March 23 in conjunction with the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four in Durham, New Hampshire. The 2024 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Show will be broadcast live from the Whittemore Center Arena Lobby beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET on NHL Network.

As the reigning WCHA Rookie of the Year, Wisconsin’s Caroline Harvey came into her sophomore season this year with sky-high expectations. While the season hasn’t been without its challenges, Harvey has shown massive growth as a player and a leader for the defending national champion Badgers.

Best known as an offensive defender, Harvey missed nine games due to injury but still led the nation’s blueliners with 35 points en route to being named WCHA Defender of the Year.

But to focus only on her points total misses the most impressive parts of her game, Wisconsin associate head coach Dan Koch said. Yes, Harvey has great vision and instincts, with a knack for stepping up into offensive play that has only improved during her second season, but what is often overlooked is how solid Harvey is defensively and how her ability to shut down opponents is crucial to her offensive success.

Simply put, Harvey is able to be so involved offensively because she’s nearly impossible to beat defensively.

Patty Kaz: Caroline Harvey (School: Wisconsin, Class: Sophomore  Position: Defense, Hometown: Salem, N.H., Statistics: 35 points in 29 games - 5G, 30A)

“She has a great stick where she’s able to deflect and defend a lot of shots that are being taken,” Koch said. “She does a great job of keeping players wide and protecting down the middle. She has great composure and the ability to close gaps quickly. If she gives up the puck, the way that she moves and jumps into space, she gets it back in a better spot.”

For many teams, the defense dishes the puck to the offense to lead a breakout, but Harvey’s vision and ability to anticipate have made her a crucial part of Wisconsin’s transition game.

“It’s so hard to score when other teams get set up in their defensive structure,” Koch said. “Your best opportunities are on the rush, and she’s really become an important part for our team because she’s that third or fourth person on the attack.”

Harvey loves the hybrid role she holds with the Badgers as an offensive defender, likening it to being a quarterback. From the blue line, Harvey can see how plays develop, and her hockey IQ lets her read and anticipate the flow of the game. From blocking a shot to leading the breakout, she is often setting the tone for the Badgers.

There’s no clear-cut signal for when Harvey chooses to flip her focus to offense. She tries to think a step ahead, looking for a chance to steal a puck, jump a pass or join in when a teammate causes a turnover. She tries not to overthink things or get bogged down in one player’s tendencies. Instead, Harvey said she trusts her gut and her read on the play and takes calculated risks. With Harvey’s recovery speed and IQ, the risks tend to be low threatwith a high ceiling for what can be generated.

“My favorite part of my game is my instincts,” Harvey said. “I love to be on the offensive side of the puck during the rush and picking, and choosing when the right time is to join the rush and join in offensively andcontributing.”

Wisconsin is at its best when Harvey is on the ice because she can singlehandedly impact the outcome. This season she has shown that her value to Wisconsin goes beyond what she can add to the scoresheet.

While spending time off the ice while injured earlier this season was frustrating, it gave Harvey a chance to study the game from a new viewpoint and helped her home in on what kind of leader she wants to be. After deferring college a year to skate with the U.S. Olympic Women’s Hockey Team at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, Harvey is a 21-year-old sophomore with an Olympic silver medal and three IIHF Women’s World Championship medals (1 gold, 2 silver). She’s a veteran underclassman who Koch said is the heart of the team and has the trust of her teammates.

Harvey would spend time rehabbing her injury before Wisconsin practices so that she could be on the bench encouraging her teammates, reminding them how good they are, she said. Koch noted there was a palpable difference in the team’s demeanor and energy when Harvey was there. Her teammates respect her and look to her for leadership, and Harvey said being forced to spend time away from the ice gave her a better understanding of how to support her teammates when she couldn’t skate with them.

Being unable to play for more than a month also helped remind Harvey that there’s more to life than hockey, which in turn made her a better and more committed hockey player. Dealing with her first major injury provided some tough lessons for Harvey, but the experience has led her to be back on the ice at the most crucial part of the season feeling physically and mentally prepared to help lead Wisconsin to another Frozen Four.

“My injury taught me a lot on and off the ice,” Harvey said. “Using that time to grow a lot off the ice helped my confidence when coming back to the team. I feel like I’m in a better spot now.”

That better spot includes assists in each of Wisconsin’s last five games and a spot on the WCHA All-Tournament Team.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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