The 2021-22 women's college hockey season has been a terrific one. We've seen parity in the weekly top-10 rankings, as teams are constantly battling it out to rise closer and closer to the No. 1 spot.
Along with top-tier team performances, we've witnessed some incredible individual performances as well, which is what this piece will focus on. The Patty Kazmaier Award exists to reward the best of the best in women's college hockey. The award was created in 1998 to honor the top player in NCAA DI women's ice hockey.
Kazmaier was an inspiration. She was a catalyst on defense for Princeton in the early 1980s. She led them to the Ivy League championship in three-straight seasons from 1981-82 to 1983-84. Years later, she battled a rare blood disease and passed away in 1990. She was 28.
Here are 10 players who have the best shot at winning the 2022 Patty Kazmaier Award.
Taylor Heise, Minnesota | Forward | Senior
Taylor Heise is a strong choice for this year's honor.
At the time of writing, she leads the nation in points with 55 on the No. 1 team in the country. The Golden Gophers have won 11 of their last 13 games and it's no surprise that Heise has been the heartbeat of the offense during that time, notching nine goals and 24 points.
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Her most clutch performances came in a three-goal weekend against Ohio State on Jan. 28 and 29. Just the weekend before, she had a goal and an assist in beating then-No. 1 Wisconsin. Those games helped Minnesota move from No. 5 in the USCHO poll to No. 1 in just two weeks.
Aerin Frankel, Northeastern | Goalie | Graduate student
Aerin Frankel is very familiar with the Patty Kazmaier Award because the veteran netminder won it last year. And with the way she's playing this year, she's making a strong case to repeat.
The graduate student leads the country in goals against average (0.99), save percentage (.958) and shutouts (9). Just get this through your head — she averages giving up less than a goal per game. That is mind-boggling. Those numbers are actually better than the ones she ended last season with, too.
"Nah."— Northeastern Women’s Hockey (@GoNUwhockey) November 13, 2021
-Aerin Frankel, probably.#HowlinHuskies🐾🏒 | #HockeyEast pic.twitter.com/iCsTZKo5iH
She's a huge reason as to why Northeastern has given up the fewest goals in the nation (29). Her best performances have come in a 25-save shutout over Boston College on Jan. 18, a 41-save win over Princeton on Nov. 27 and a 34-save shutout at Maine on Oct. 16.
Sophie Jaques, Ohio State | Defenseman | Senior
As a senior, Sophie Jaques burst onto the college hockey scene in a huge way. Last season saw the defenseman post four points in 20 games. In 2021-22, she's exploded for 52 points in 29 games, which is good for third in all of college hockey. It's far and away No. 1 among all defensemen.
Ohio State sports the second-best offense in the nation and Jaques is a driving force behind it. She has four two-goal games this season and has 18 multi-point games. From Oct. 29 through Nov. 27 (eight games), she posted at least two points per contest.
Her dominance on the backend is enough to make her an extremely strong candidate for this year's award.
Daryl Watts, Wisconsin | Forward | Fifth year
Like Frankel, Daryl Watts has won the award before. Back in 2018 when Watts was a freshman at Boston College, she posted 82 points in 38 games and took home the honor with ease. Since going to Wisconsin, she was a top-10 finalist for the 2020 award and a top-three finalist in 2021.
“Watt(s)” can’t @DarylWatts19 do?— Wisconsin On BTN (@WisconsinOnBTN) February 13, 2022
The @BadgerWHockey seniors complete the weekend sweep with a 7-2 win over Minnesota State. pic.twitter.com/u3LsHnKrDp
Chances are she'll definitely be a top-10 finalist this season. She ranks second in the nation in points with 53 in 31 games. Her 25 goals lead the league. Her latest weekend against Minnesota State was her best series of the season, posting four goals and nine points over the two wins. That was enough to get her 293 career points, which is second-most in NCAA history.
She's had a memorable college career that could be capped off with another Patty Kazmaier Award.
Gabbie Hughes, Minnesota Duluth | Forward | Senior
Gabbie Hughes has been dynamite for Minnesota Duluth this season. As the No. 1 center on the fifth-best offense in the country, Hughes ranks fourth in the nation in points with 49. She was No. 1 in points for a bit, but she's cooled off a bit in her last three games, only posting an assist.
That doesn't take away from how dominant she's been for most of the season. One of her best performances came on Oct. 17 when she assisted on all four goals her team scored against then-No. 1 Wisconsin. She has eight games in which she's notched three or more points.
Casey O'Brien, Wisconsin | Forward | Sophomore
She may only be a sophomore, but Casey O'Brien has shown signs she'll be in consideration for the Patty Kazmaier Award for the rest of her college career.
On a stacked Wisconsin squad, O'Brien ranks fifth in the nation in points with 48. Her eight game-winning goals lead the country. She centers the first line with Watts on her left and Makenna Webster on her right. It's a superstar line that's paid huge dividends for the Badgers.
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Her most clutch performances came in two-straight weekends back in October when Wisconsin swept Minnesota Duluth and then Ohio State. O'Brien had a combined six points over the four games. She's been consistent, which will be a huge quality Wisconsin will look to her for come the national tournament.
Caitrin Lonergan, Clarkson | Forward | Graduate student
Caitrin Lonergan's experience in college hockey is lengthy. The Roslindale, Massachusetts native began her career during the 2016-17 season with Boston College. After posting 75 points in 2017-18, she finished as a top-10 finalist for the award.
Four years later, Lonergan is tied for eighth in the nation for points with 46 and has been the most lethal offensive player for Clarkson. She's notched three four-point games this season. She has seven points in her last three games, which bodes great for the Golden Knights' tournament hopes.
Skylar Fontaine, Northeastern | Defenseman | Graduate student
The only other defenseman on this list, Skylar Fontaine has been a stable force for the Huskies on defense this season. She ranks second among all defensemen in points this year with 40 and is tied for second among the entire league in assists with 33. Fontaine has dominated lately, posting 12 points in her last five games.
Skylar Fontaine all we have to say is THANK YOU#HowlinHuskies pic.twitter.com/xIvOwc4TGd— Northeastern Women’s Hockey (@GoNUwhockey) February 12, 2022
Fontaine is no stranger to this award. She was a top-10 finalist last season after leading all defensemen in the country with 30 points. That also ranked third in the entire nation.
Makenna Webster, Wisconsin | Forward | Sophomore
The Badgers get each part of their top line on this list, and rightfully so. Webster has been a brilliant finishing piece to the best line in the nation, scoring 47 points, which is tied for sixth in the country.
Webster opened the season on a tear, scoring 21 points in the first seven games. She's been great of late as well, registering seven points in her last three games. Like O'Brien, it's easy to imagine Webster will be in contention for this award through the rest of her college career.
Elizabeth Giguere, Minnesota Duluth | Forward | Fifth year
Elizabeth Giguere has had a spectacular college career. After posting point totals of 71 and 73 in her first two years at Clarkson, she won the 2020 Patty Kazmaier Award after her junior year when she scored 66 points.
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This is her first year at Minnesota Duluth, and it's been a great one. She's tied for sixth in the nation in points with 47. Giguere and Hughes have been massive reasons as to why the Bulldogs have one of the best offenses in college hockey.