The top three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award were announced last week, and Gophers junior forward Hannah Brandt has made the cut alongside two other forwards, junior Alex Carpenter of Boston College and Boston University senior Marie-Philip Poulin.
Brandt has been having a banner season and already has a little bit of hardware to show for it, coming away as the WCHA's Scoring Champion and Player of the Year for 2014-15 last weekend. Statistically this isn't her best season, but it is a rebound in goals (31 from 23) and shot percentage (.159 from .145) from her sophomore season, and she's thrown the most shots on goal yet in her career (195). She led her team in points and was second in the nation with 67, and she became just the seventh Gopher and 25th player ever in the NCAA to pass 200 in her career this season, scoring her 200th point (an assist) in a 4-0 win against St. Cloud State Jan. 23. Overall, she's been the most consistent and dynamic player the Gophers have had all year.
Brandt is in good company. Both Carpenter and Poulin are national team players for their respective countries (Carpenter for the U.S., Poulin for Team Canada) and the two actually faced each other last February in Sochi at the Olympics. Carpenter came away with Hockey East Player of the Year honors and leads the nation in nearly every offensive category (33 G, 42 A, 75 points overall). She even broke her own single-season record for points this year. (Not that Brandt is a slouch by any means -- she's just eight points behind, and she and Carpenter were actually teammates for the 4 Nations Cup last November.) Carpenter can charge hard to the net and has excellent hands, as demonstrated in these highlights of her scoring two goals and an assist Jan. 17 against Vermont:
Meanwhile, Marie-Philip Poulin is well-known for her "golden goal" against the U.S. in Sochi. She's just as dominant for the Terriers, posting 54 points over 31 games and being seemingly everywhere on the ice at once, with or without the puck. She manages to be in the right spot at the right time, but can also create and finish plenty of chances on her own: (Vine by Jashvina Shah)
Carpenter and Poulin are each vying for the chance to be the first of their hockey programs to be a Patty Kaz recipient, and to be honest, no matter who it is, I think the choice will be good. I've watched both Carpenter and Poulin internationally, and listening to Gophers broadcasts weekly, I know what kind of player Brandt can be. They each deserve plenty of recognition for their incredible play this year and making this race to the top an exciting one.
USCHO.com Rankings: (3/9/15)
- Boston College
- Boston University
- North Dakota
- Bemidji State
- North Dakota
- Bemidji State
- Oh, Beavers, we hardly knew ye. After knocking the Gophers out of the WCHA Final Face-Off with a 1-0 win, Bemidji State fell to Wisconsin, 4-0. Still, this is their best finish in program history, with 21 wins under first-year coach Jim Scanlan, and they've definitely gotten the attention of college hockey fans nationwide. They got far and stoned a good Gophers offense (among others') on strong defense and the outstanding play of Brittni Mowat in goal. Mowat made all-WCHA first team and for good reason -- she finished with a strong 1.68 GAA and of the top three goalies in save percentage (Mowat, Shelby Amsley-Benzie of North Dakota and Amanda Leveille of Minnesota), Mowat made nearly 300 more saves. And might I add, her save percentage is just a tad lower than that of Leveille. She's the backbone of the Beavers and likely will be for the next two years of her career.
- Minnesota and Wisconsin are the WCHA representatives for the NCAA national championship. The Gophers host RIT in the Quarterfinal game Saturday. The Tigers beat Syracuse last weekend in double-overtime to win its second-straight College Hockey America (CHA) championship, but this is their first-ever trip to the national championships as a Division I squad. Their scoring is a bit more spread out, with plenty of players scoring double-digit totals on the season, but it's safe to say the offense isn't quite as pronounced. Senior Ali Binnington is strong in net, however, and the team did pick off an elite team in Mercyhurst before facing the Orange. Overall, it'll be interesting to see how RIT handles its first outing as a nationally competing team. The game begins at 4 p.m Central (5 p.m. Eastern) at Ridder.
- Meanwhile, Wisconsin faces off against a tougher opponent in Boston U Saturday at 2 p.m. CST (3 p.m. EST) at LaBahn Arena. BU is 0-4 all-time against the Badgers and have been outscored 19-2, but they did win a fourth straight Hockey East title this season with a 4-1 win over powerhouse Boston College and have plenty of momentum heading into this matchup. Keep an eye out for Marie-Philip Poulin, of course (and check out this piece on her by USA Today as well).
- In case you missed it, Boston skated away with the Clarkson Cup Saturday after an intense championship game against Montreal. Charline Labonte was perfect for the Stars heading into this game, but she faltered for just a few moments during the game, and that was enough for a stacked Blades offense. In the end, it was Janine Weber on a 2-on-1 to win it for Boston, who reclaim the title after losing it to Toronto last season.
- Here's an excellent roundup of links regarding the NHL's role in helping women's hockey get off the ground by Kate of Watch This Hockey (full disclosure: another site I write for). She makes a good point about the NHL being branded as "the best hockey" by nearly everyone and how tenuous that branding can be. I have the same level of ambivalence as she regarding this, and ultimately, I don't know what the answer is at this point. I think the NHL can help, but it should not be the only source of help -- plenty of other leagues and organizations, such as the NCAA for example, can provide support (and might be better suited for it as well).