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.
Taylar Cianfarano and Sarah Lefort are on the opposite ends of their college hockey experiences.
Cianfarano, a forward on fourth-ranked Quinnipiac University, is just a sophomore with two more seasons to go. Lefort, a senior forward for Boston University, can feel her college career winding down. She has just eight more regular-season games remaining.
Yet both are central figures for their Northeast teams. They’ve each shaken off injuries to contribute in big ways this season and rank among the top scorers in the nation.
Cianfarano ranks No. 9 in NCAA Division I with 39 points (22 goals, 17 assists). Lefort is tied for No. 23 nationally with 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists). Lefort also is tied for fifth in the nation with five power-play goals.
Both, too, will rank among the all-time best at their schools when they graduate.
Cianfarano, who had two goals and an assist last week in a 6-1 victory over Lefort’s Terriers, has 39 goals and 69 points midway through her second season. With five goals she will become the Bobcats’ No. 2 career goal scorer. She’s also on pace to threaten the school mark of 95 goals by Kelly Babstock.
Lefort’s 89 goals have surpassed Marie-Philip Poulin’s BU record of 81. Her 175 points leave her just six behind Poulin’s school record.
Each, however, deflects the attention for their individual achievements and said the stats reflect the great work by their teammates.
“I don’t think about it much,” Cianfarano said of her high-scoring first two seasons. “I just go game by game, and whatever comes to me I take.” Her only quest, she said, “Is to play my best every game and not worry about it.”
Lefort said she’s just proud to see her name alongside the elite players in Terriers history. She admits she has a talent for finishing but said much of the credit for her goals record goes to “that perfect pass or perfect play” by her teammates.
Here’s a closer look at the two.
Taylar Cianfarano: Fast and Looking to be Faster
In 2014-15, Cianfarano scored 17 goals with 13 assists for a Quinnipiac team that went 26-9-3 and reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. It was a fine start for the freshman from Oswego, New York, but she fought through some pain to do it. She had a torn labrum in her left hip that required surgery after the season.
“I was completely healed by August,” she said.
Though she said treatment and rehab last season allowed her to play without being greatly impaired, she admits feeling better this season, though she said she still needs to improve the strength in her left leg.
In fact, she said improving her speed — via strength and speed drills — is her goal. She said her strongest trait is her on-ice vision and ability to score, but after time with the national team in a December camp she knows she has to get faster.
“The speed and the pace of the game is completely different and it’s definitely a level I have to work on and work toward in order to be on that team eventually,” she said.
She credits extra work with her strength and conditioning coach at Quinnipiac — doing sprints, agility work and strength training — to taking her up a notch this season.
Meanwhile, she’s enjoying the experience of playing on a winning team that’s on a roll. The Bobcats’ only loss came on Oct. 31 to Yale University. She said the extra summer training she and her teammates did and the off-ice chemistry between the players is paying off.
Her role, she said, is to “find my teammates and create chances for them.”
Sarah Lefort: Prepped for a Strong Finish
Though she was coming off back-to-back seasons of 50 or more points as a sophomore and junior, Lefort and her team got off to a slower start this year.
After losing so many important players from a team that went 25-9-3, the Terriers, ranked No. 8 to start the season, but went 3-4 over their first seven games before starting to come together. Now 16-9-2, Boston University has won three of its past four games. Lefort, too, has come on strong as of late. Over a nine-game stretch from mid-November to mid-December, she had nine goals and 10 assists.
She said part of her slow start was the result of a broken finger. She didn’t miss any time, but admits that the injury was a “bit of a challenge.”
The native of Ormstown, Quebec believes the Terriers can get hot and make a run. She said that by focusing on better defense, crisper passes and better communication — and having more of a sense of urgency — the team has improved.
“We’re just trying to look not too far ahead and focus on the present,” she said.
That’s definitely the case with Lefort, too.
People told her when she was being recruited that four years of college would fly by, and now she believes them. She’s due to graduate on schedule with a degree in health science and a minor in psychology, and hopes to play for the Canadian national team beyond that, but for now she just wants to savor her final games in a Boston uniform.
“It’s definitely sad to see the end coming pretty soon,” she said. “I’m just trying to enjoy every moment.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.