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. The 2019 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner will be announced on March 23 in conjunction with the NCAA Women's Frozen Four in Hamden, Conn.
The Patty Kazmaier Award carries a special meaning and significance for Princeton freshman Sarah Fillier.
The prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award, presented annually to the top women’s college hockey player in the nation, is named in honor of the late Patty Kazmaier-Sandt, who was a four-year varsity letterwinner and All-Ivy League defenseman at Princeton from 1981-86.
Fillier is excited to honor Kazmaier-Sandt after the freshman standout was named a top-10 finalist for the 2019 edition of the award last week.
“At Princeton, we have a banner hanging every time you face the flags for the anthem, and it says, ‘Make Patty Proud,’” Fillier said. “I’ve been looking at that the past few months, realizing this is something I want to be able to do, so this year has been really special.”
Kazmaier-Sandt, who also played field hockey and lacrosse, helped lead Princeton to the Ivy League championship in three consecutive seasons. She passed away on Feb. 15, 1990 at the age of 28 following a long struggle with a rare blood disease.
“Hearing about her and her legacy is really special,” Fillier said. “Walking into her rink and seeing her picture and banner is something you always think about. It’s inspiring to know that you’re in contention. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a great feeling. To win the award, make her proud and make our community proud would be really special.”
Fillier, a native of Georgetown, Ontario, committed to Princeton in 10th grade, so she was well aware of the Patty Kazmaier Award and its significance. Fillier said she grew up knowing names of the winners on the list. Joining the list of finalists, some of them Olympians, was motivating and rewarding for Fillier.
“This is something I’ve been working for, even longer than since I’ve been here,” Fillier said. “If you look at the list of names, they’ve had really big years and they’re doing really big things for their programs and schools. To have my name on the list of really great players and people I look up to and inspire to be like is really special.”
Entering her first season, Fillier was mainly focused on putting the program in contention for the Ivy League championship in addition to the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) and the Frozen Four. The Tigers already captured the Ivy League title for the first time since 2016.
“Being on the list is indicative of what our team culture is all about and striving for excellence,” Fillier said. “It’s more of a team award than an individual. We have all put in the work.”
Fillier leads the nation in scoring and assists per game, averaging 2.04 and 1.35, respectively, but she noted an adjustment to Division I level, in addition to managing an Ivy League academic workload. In November, Fillier was named to Team Canada for the annual Four Nations Cup, which gave the standout freshman confidence.
“It was really huge, just learning from all the players and going through that experience,” Fillier said. “I think it really helped me when I came back to Princeton. It was OK if I struggled because I was going through the learning process. I relaxed, played my game and everything sort of clicked. I’m pretty fortunate for the season I’m having right now.”
Fillier ranks among the nation’s leaders with 16 goals and 48 points, despite missing four games to compete in the Four Nations Cup. Fillier credited junior Carly Bullock and fellow freshman Maggie Connors for her top-10 nomination.
“Having them support me has been excellent,” Fillier said. “They’re huge playmakers and if you get them the puck, they’re going to finish. I couldn’t do it without them.”
Fillier was named the Hockey Commissioner’s Association Rookie of the Month in December and January, and also the ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Month for the same time period. She’s an ECAC Hockey Player of the Week, two-time ECAC Rookie of the Week, and NCAA First Star of the Week.
Fillier tallied nine points during a six-game scoring streak, and a nine-game run totaling 23 points. She is the first Princeton skater with a five-point game since 2006 and has had 16 games with at least two or more points.
“I didn’t expect or come in thinking I would get these many points, or assists, or lead these categories,” Fillier said. “It just kind of happened.”
One of the biggest learning experiences came when Fillier had an opportunity to play with experienced Olympians like Marie-Philip Poulin, Meghan Agosta, Jocelyne Larocque, Rebecca Johnston, Renata Fast and others.
“It’s definitely one of the most special moments of my career,” Fillier said. “Just being in the room and see my name with these Olympians I watched last February compete for a gold medal was sort of crazy. Learning about habits and what makes a player elite gave me confidence and reminded me that this is where you’re supposed to be, and this is where you want to be in the next four years.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Shelley Szwast.