Someone from the University of Minnesota will win this year’s Patty Kazmaier Award as the nation’s top NCAA Division I collegiate women’s hockey player. That’s because all three finalists – a forward, blueliner and goaltender – play for head coach Brad Frost and the undefeated and No. 1-ranked Golden Gophers (36-0-0 overall, 28-0-0 WCHA).
Junior forward Amanda Kessel, younger sister of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel, leads the nation in scoring with 43 goals and 51 assists for 94 points in 33 games, and has 224 points in 109 career appearances. Team captain and senior defender Megan Bozek, an Illinois native, is third on this year’s Gopher scoring scroll with 18-34—52 points in 36 outings, while senior netminder and two-time Finnish Olympian Noora Räty has gone 31-0-0 so far this season with 14 shutouts, and has not allowed goal in her last four games.
Former Minnesota forward and two-time U.S. Olympian Krissy Wendell is the only previous Gopher to have won the Kazmaier Award, back in 2005 when she recorded 43-61—104 points in 40 contests. This year’s award will be presented in Minneapolis on March 23, as part of the NCAA Frozen Four.
The current Minnesota squad has won 44 games dating back to last season, and just completed a two-step sweep of Bemidji State in the first round of the WCHA Tournament. The Gophers will next skate against Ohio State on Friday at home at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis in a league semifinal in the WCHA Final Face-Off. The winner will play the victor of the North Dakota-Wisconsin semifinal on Saturday for the WCHA’s automatic berth in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.