Minnesota's Kessel wins Kazmaier Award
Junior forward beats out Minnesota teammates Raty, Bozek
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota junior forward Amanda Kessel was named the 2013 recipient of the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award on Saturday, which is given annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey.
A native of Madison, Wis., Kessel will enter Sunday’s national championship game against No. 3 Boston University with 44 goals and 53 assists so far this season for 97 points, leading the nation in all three of those categories.
Kessel has also led Division I this season in terms of shorthanded goals with five and points per game with an average of 2.62 from her 36 appearances so far in the 2012-13 campaign.
All three finalists for the Kazmaier Award play for the Golden Gophers. To win the award, Kessel beat out a pair of teammates in senior goaltender Noora Raty and senior defenseman Megan Bozek.
A fourth Golden Gopher, freshman forward Hannah Brandt, was a top-10 finalist for the award this season but did not make it into the list of three finalists.
Kessel said after being named the award’s recipient that, though it was honor to have the title bestowed upon her, she felt her teammates that were also nominated were just as deserving.
“Just to be sitting next to those two, I wouldn’t want it to have been anyone else [from another team],” Kessel said. “But it is a little bit bittersweet because I wish I could’ve shared that award, and I think of all of us feel that same way.”
Kessel showed great humility Saturday at the podium inside the McNamara Alumni Center, and when asked later who she would have voted for to win the Kazmaier, she shifted attention away from her own accomplishments this season.
“I actually thought Noora had a little bit of an advantage on me,” Kessel said, “But I’m happy to win, obviously. She’s broken every single record and she’s a senior, but we’re different positions, so it’s really apples and oranges of terms of who was going to win.”
Raty, a senior who would’ve been the first European-born player to win the award, was a big reason Minnesota (40-0-0) is undefeated and untied this season heading into Sunday’s final. She leads the nation this season in save percentage (.959), goals-against average (0.88) and shutouts (16).
Bozek has been the country’s best dedicated defenseman this season, masterfully anchoring the Gophers’ blue line while also contributing 20 goals and 35 assists to the cause.
Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said after Saturday’s award ceremony that he felt all three of the Kazmaier finalists would’ve been worthy winners of the award.
“That’s the hardest thing: They’re all the best players at their positions, so it just comes down to what people value a little more,” Frost said. “Is a goaltender more valuable than a defenseman or forwards, or any other ways around?
“But, regardless of who would’ve won, they would’ve earned it, and I think the vote could’ve gone other ways just as easily, but it was a good choice with Amanda.”
The Gophers will be gunning for their consecutive national championship and fifth in Minnesota’s women’s program’s history on Sunday. Buzz over the Kazmaier finalists all playing on the same team could’ve sidetracked the Gophers’ progress, but Kessel felt that a lack of egos in the team’s dressing room kept award talk from becoming a distraction.
“If you’re sitting there and you don’t win it, it has to be disappointing,” Kessel said, “And you’d have to hold your emotions in because it’s your teammates [also nominated for the award], but I think they did a really great job, and they were happy for me.
“I guess it wasn’t talked about much throughout our team, but we knew it was going to be a tough position for all of us, but I think, no matter what, we would’ve been truly happy for any our teammates to win this. It’s almost easier knowing it’s one of your teammates going up there to get the award.”
Frost echoed Kessel’s sentiments and praised the humility she has shown throughout her nearly three years in Minneapolis.
“All three of them have, in the world’s eyes, a right to be very cocky and arrogant and feel like they’re the best,” Frost said. “Instead, it’s the whole method of our team to be grateful for the opportunities that we have, and you could see that in Amanda.”
With the Kazmaier award now handed out, Sunday’s national championship game will provide the Gophers with an opportunity to pick up the award their whole team would, for the second year running, be able to share.