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.
A torn anterior cruciate ligament may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Clarkson University standout Cayley Mercer.
Mercer, a senior, tore her ACL before her freshman season, but she overcame the injury to become one of the top offensive threats in the nation and a top-three finalist for the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, presented annually to the top player in women’s NCAA Division I hockey.
“I can remember vividly the day I had to call my coach and tell him I tore my ACL and that I was going to have surgery and have to redshirt my freshman season,” Mercer said. “It was such a deflating feeling. I was honestly devastated knowing I was going to have to miss my freshman season and at the time it seemed like the worst possible thing that could’ve happened to me. But I know everything happens for a reason and that led me to the success I’ve had today. It taught me lessons about hard work and perseverance and I’m truly grateful for the experience and everything it has taught me.”
Mercer, who leads the nation with 26 goals, is a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award, joining Wisconsin standout goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens and Lara Stalder, the University of Minnesota-Duluth star.
“I feel privileged to be in a class with such elite talent,” Mercer said, giving credit to her family, friends, teammates and coaches.
“The top 10, and even the top three are such fierce competitors. Every single player on that list has done their share in elevating the game and they’re all so deserving of the nomination. It has truly been an honor to be nominated in a group among that much talent, whoever wins is truly deserving.”
Mercer, a native of Exeter, Ontario, was on the ice for practice when Clarkson head coach Matt Desrosiers told his co-captain that she was initially a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award. Mercer was in class and informed via phone notifications that she had made it into the top three.
“I really don’t think my smile could’ve been bigger than in that moment,” Mercer said. “I actually immediately left class and called my parents. I wanted nothing more than to share that moment with them. I was honestly in a bit of disbelief because I never really considered this a possibility. For me, it was incredible knowing that all of my hard work paid off. The sense of pride and accomplishment I felt in that moment was truly overwhelming. It was a really surreal moment.”
In addition to leading the nation in goals, Mercer ranks second in scoring with 58 points and is fourth in power-play goals. She recently became the school’s all-time leading career goal scorer with 78.
“My game has actually evolved over my career at Clarkson,” Mercer said. “I feel like I have come a long way confidence-wise and really settled into a role on the team that I feel highlights my game and gives me opportunity to contribute to the team success.”
Mercer has 174 points in 158 career games and is seven points shy of the school’s all-time mark in career points. She has helped Clarkson to the school’s second straight trip to the NCAA Frozen Four and fifth consecutive in the NCAA Tournament.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play with some extremely talented linemates,” Mercer said. “Success comes a lot easier when you’re surrounded by such an exceptional team. I focused on coming to the rink every day, trying to get better and make the people around me better and luckily it translated into some success for myself this season as well.”
Mercer has done it all while pursuing an intense MBA in graduate school. She graduated last year with a degree in finance and is on track to complete a two-year MBA program in one year.
“I definitely felt a little overwhelmed at times, and it has been a lot to handle because I’ve been kind of fast-tracking it, but I’ve had a great support system around me,” Mercer said. “I knew at the beginning of the year it was going to be tough, but it’s also something I wanted to do and I really wanted to excel in my last season. You just put your head down, you go to work, you go about your business and you make sure you put the work in to get it done and stay on top of things.”
Mercer will also have an opportunity to continue her hockey career after she was drafted No. 6 overall by the Buffalo Beauts of the National Women’s Hockey League. She said it was a bittersweet feeling to look ahead because it means her college career is coming to an end, but Mercer is excited for her future.
Mercer is currently eager to experience the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award ceremony as a top-three finalist for the prestigious honor.
“Being in the top three is a pretty hard feeling to put into words,” Mercer said. “It’s really so surreal and it has just exceeded all of my expectations I had for myself and my senior season. It’s incredible knowing that I earned a spot among so many talented athletes and just to be mentioned in the same breath as Patty Kazmaier and knowing the legacy she left behind is recognition enough for me. It’s a really remarkable honor and proves all my hard work along the way has really paid off.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.