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.
Hannah Brandt looks back over her hockey career at the University of Minnesota and feels tremendously blessed.
She’s been a part of two national championship teams, has reached the Frozen Four three times and recently was named a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award for the fourth time.
And she’s not done.
Brandt, the fifth-best scorer in the nation this season with 58 points (including 24 goals), and the No. 2-ranked Gophers (31-3-1) are still alive for another trip to the Frozen Four. Minnesota will face the University of North Dakota this Saturday in the semifinals of the WCHA Final Face-Off.
“It’s been so much fun,” said Brandt, a 5-foot-6 forward from Vadnais Heights, Minnesota. “To start out my freshman year and we never lost a game, that was a pretty incredible season. And then going forward to being able to play all the national championship games so far has just been so fun and such a good experience, something we’ll never forget.”
Brandt was second in the nation in scoring as a freshman (82 points, 33 goals), third as a sophomore (65 points, 23 goals) and second as a junior (74 points, 34 goals).
She said the fact she’s been a finalist for the Kazmaier Award (given to college hockey’s top female player) is a testament to the Minnesota program.
“It just shows I’ve been able to play with some really great players, and that’s allowed me to be successful,” she said. “… I’ve just been lucky to play with some unbelievable players.”
This Gophers season started with nine straight wins before a loss to North Dakota. Brandt had some big games early, with two goals at Penn State, four goals vs. St. Cloud State and a three-goal, three-assist game against Ohio State.
Then Minnesota won six straight — with Brandt posting a five-goal night in a victory over Bemidji State — before getting swept by the University of Wisconsin in a two-game set on the Badgers’ home ice in early December.
Since then, the Gophers are unbeaten, and Brandt believes they’re playing at another level.
“We got swept by Wisconsin, which is always one of our biggest rivals, and then to get a sweep on them at the end of the season going into the playoffs was huge,” she said of the 4-0 and 4-3 overtime wins on Feb. 19 and 20. “So we’re looking to go into the playoffs with a lot of momentum.”
Now Brandt and Co. remain alive to possibly win a third NCAA title in four seasons.
Over those four years Brandt said certain memories stand out.
As a freshman: “The moment I really remember from that year is when we beat North Dakota in three overtimes to get to the Frozen Four,” she said. “That was just a crazy game.” In that 3-2 Gophers win, Brandt had a goal that helped carry her team to the NCAA semifinals — and eventually the finals and an unbeaten season.
As a sophomore: “I remember losing the national championship game and using that as motivation for the next year,” she said. Clarkson University beat the Gophers 5-4.
As a junior: “We weren’t expected to have as good a year as we did, and just being able to win a national championship on our home ice was incredible for all of us,” she said. Brandt scored a goal in the 4-1 win over Harvard University in the final. An empty-netter by teammate Rachel Bona with less than two minutes remaining sealed it. After Bona’s goal, Brandt remembers being on the ice, passing the puck around till time expired. “It was like, ‘Oh, my God, we finally did this. We got that trophy back,’” Brandt recalled.
As a senior: The recent 4-3 overtime victory over the Badgers locked up a series sweep. “I think we proved a lot to ourselves and to the country that we’re definitely going to be a top team going into the playoffs,” she said.
With time winding down on her college career, Brandt said she’ll be sad in the sense that she’ll never again play for Minnesota. But it’s something to celebrate, not mourn.
“I have a lot of great memories, and I don’t regret anything,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for more in these past four years.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo by Brad Rempel