A former teacher with a special connection to Patty Kazmaier could see early on that Makenna Newkirk had a bright future, perhaps one day even competing for Kazmaier’s namesake award.
That is currently coming to light for Newkirk, the Boston College standout junior forward, who is in the conversation for the Patty Kazmaier Award, presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey. Newkirk’s former teacher at the Pomfret School in Connecticut, Arthur Diaz, attended Princeton University with Kazmaier in the early 1980s and knew her personally.
“That’s a really cool side note to keep in the back of my mind,” Newkirk said. “[Diaz] had the utmost respect for her, and that’s kind of what I took away from it. It was funny because when he saw me have a great freshman year, he pulled me aside and said, ‘I know you’re going to be talked about when the time comes.”
Newkirk is just happy to be in the conversation.
“I think it’s a huge honor to even be talked about and be in the running,” Newkirk said. “It means a lot to me. There are so many other great players that we’re blessed to be playing with. Half our team could be talked about.”
Newkirk enjoyed a breakout first season in 2015-16 at Boston College, ending as runner-up for ACHA National Freshman of the Year.
Newkirk is now a co-captain for the Eagles, who are ranked among the top five teams in the nation and have dominated Hockey East.
“It’s a huge honor,” Newkirk said. “We have had such amazing captains come through this program, and there are already so many leaders on this year’s team who have been stepping up. We have a special group this year, so I just try to come to the rink every day, work hard and try to be better for them every practice.”
That mentality switched in the offseason for Newkirk. She realized Boston College would be without Andie Anastos, Kristyn Capizzano and Haley McLean — lost to graduation — along with Cayla Barnes, Kali Flanagan and Megan Keller, who were named to the 2018 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team, forcing Newkirk to shoulder additional responsibility.
So far, so good.
“It was a good offseason for me and I worked pretty hard,” Newkirk said. “I’ve just been trying to focus on keeping the team happy, together and willing to work for each other. That’s where I see myself as a captain and a leader and it’s easy to do with this group.”
Newkirk has also adjusted to a position switch to center.
“I knew I had to play center and take on those responsibilities in the defensive zone,” Newkirk said. “With the defensive systems we run, it’s not easy, it’s a lot of hard work and paying attention to details … But I was ready for that coming in.”
She has also flourished. Newkirk ranks among the nation’s leaders in scoring, trailing Daryl Watts and Caitrin Lonergan, her high-flying teammates. Newkirk cracked the program’s top-10 career points and assists earlier this season. She also became the 17th player — and sixth fastest — to eclipse 100 career points.
“I think it has been a great season so far,” Newkirk said. “We have a lot of talent up front, a great defense and a great goalie holding us together. We’re playing well, trying to get back to basics and focus on the ending stretch and the Beanpot [Tournament]. We’re really excited for that. It’s crunch time, this starts trophy season and we’re trying to gear up for that.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.