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.
Left: Dani Cameranesi (Brad Rempel/Gopher Athletics) Right: Haley Skarupa (John Quackenbos/BC Athletics)
The day after Dani Cameranesi and her University of Minnesota teammates celebrated their victory over Harvard University in the 2015 NCAA Frozen Four final last March in Minneapolis, Cameranesi boarded a flight with two of her teammates to join the U.S. national team in Europe.
When she arrived, one of her teammates in Sweden for the Women’s World Championship was Haley Skarupa of Boston College, who had to travel almost the same route, having lost with her B.C. teammates to Harvard in the Frozen Four semifinals.
The two then played on the same line to help the U.S. win a gold medal to cap off a terrific year for two of the best players in the nation. Cameranesi had three assists over five games. Skarupa had two goals and two assists.
“Coming out on top two times in a row … it was really an exciting year full of great hockey memories” said Cameranesi, a junior forward who ranks as the No. 4 scorer in the nation this season with 61 points in 33 games.
Skarupa, a senior forward for the Eagles who ranks third in the nation with 66 points in 34 games, obviously was disappointed that Boston College had gone so far only to fall in the national semifinals. But being part of a world championship team — playing alongside other college stars and veterans she’s followed for years — was an experience that she said is helping her in B.C.’s quest to reach the NCAA title this time around.
“Any time you can put on the USA jersey is an honor, and just playing with some of the players you grew up idolizing, role models, I learned a ton both on and off the ice,” she said. “And it was awesome to win the gold medal.”
Almost a year later, Cameranesi and Skarupa again have helped their teams be championship contenders. A closer look at both:
Cameranesi Atop Potent Gophers Offense
Cameranesi is part of a potent attack for Minnesota, which is coming off a weekend sweep of the rival University of Wisconsin (which already had clinched the regular-season WCHA title). The Gophers, 29-3-1 overall, will begin play in the WCHA playoffs Friday.
Cameranesi is Minnesota’s top scorer in 2015-16, but Hannah Brandt (54 points), Sarah Potomak (49) and Kelly Pannek (45) give the defending national champions four of the nation’s top-10 point producers. Plus, former Patty Kazmaier Award winner and 2014 U.S. Olympian Amanda Kessel has returned from injury to add even more firepower.
Cameranesi, from Plymouth, Minnesota, is enjoying her best season — and her first two were excellent. She had 36 points as a freshman and 65 as a sophomore, when she was a Kazmaier top-10 finalist. This year her 1.85 points per game is a career high, her 28 goals are fourth in the NCAA and she leads the nation with 12 power-play goals.
“This summer I really focused on my stick skills and shooting because I realized they weren’t necessarily up to par with a lot of the other girls,” she said, pointing to her time with the national team. “It’s something I need to work on. I constantly want to work to get better in all areas.”
Joel Johnson, Minnesota’s associate head coach under Brad Frost, has been working with Cameranesi after practice with the focus being on helping her score in tight places and be more in control.
“[Just] slowing myself down sometimes,” she said. “I don’t have to be going 100 mph all the time.”
Senior Skarupa Leading Eagles on All-Out Run
Skarupa is part of Boston College’s terrific top line that also consists of Alex Carpenter — the nation’s leading scorer, a 2014 U.S. Olympian and the reigning Kazmaier Award winner — and Kenzie Kent.
The Eagles are 34-0-0, ranked No. 1 in the nation and on a mission to win the NCAA title that eluded them last season.
As a senior, Skarupa, from Rockville, Maryland — who was a Kazmaier top-10 finalist as a junior — knows it’s now or never for her.
“At this point, it’s kind of everything for us,” she said of the Eagles. “It’s every single practice, every single game, it’s in the back of our minds because for us seniors, it’s our last chance. I think our team is very capable of making a run toward it. … It’s what motivates us every practice, every game.”
Skarupa certainly is doing her part. She’s had seasons of 53, 41 and 71 points and should go out with a career-high total this season. Her nine power-play goals are second only to Cameranesi in 2015-16.
She senses a different mindset on the team after last season’s semifinal appearance.
“Being a part of the Frozen Four last year has helped us come through in tight games this year because we know the extra level that we can get to, for what it takes to win and close out games,” she said. “That has been a big part of our game this season.”
Also, Skarupa said her time on Team USA not only has helped her sharpen her game, but allowed her to help the Eagles this season. She said watching the way veteran players performed was eye-opening and changed her approach. She’s tried to be an example for her teammates.
“Just the attention to detail,” she said. “Every single shift, every single drill, you watch the older players, the veterans, they never take a shift or a drill off, and it really rubs off on the younger players because we obviously want to be as good as them, so we kind of replicate what they do. Just the consistent effort really affected my game.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.