Never before has a WCHA player won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, but that will change on March 26.
Minnesota juniors Krissy Wendell and Natalie Darwitz and UMD senior Caroline Ouellette were named the top three finalists for the 2005 Kazmaier award, and made it a clean sweep for the WCHA. The league never had more than one finalist prior to this season. ECAC players have won all the previous seven Kazmaier awards, although two winners play for schools now in Hockey East.
The award is presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey. The final three were named by a 13-member selection panel, who selected from the Top 10 finalists. The inital cut to 10 was decided by a vote of D-I coaches. The 13-member selection panel has typically included eight coaches, four media representatives and one USA Hockey representative.
A two-time top 10 finalist for the award, Ouellette ranks fourth in the nation in points per game (2.44) and assists per game (1.47) and was one of four players nationwide to reach the 70-point mark in 2004-05. Named an All-WCHA First Team selection for the second time in her career, Ouellette ranks second nationally with nine game-winning tallies. The captain of the Bulldogs leads her team in goals (31), points (78) and assists (47). In the WCHA playoffs, she notched eight points (2-6) to lead her team to a third-place finish.
Currently the top scorer in the nation, Darwitz leads both the NCAA and the WCHA in assists (63) and points (102). She also tops the NCAA in points per game (2.76) and assists per game (1.70) and garnered All-WCHA First Team honors for the third time. In the WCHA playoffs, Darwitz contributed nine points (5-4) to lead her team to its second-consecutive playoff crown. She notched her second hat trick of the year in the semifinal game against The Ohio State University (March 5) and earned tournament most valuable player honors.
Wendell is the top goal-scorer (40) in the WCHA. She ranks second in the nation in points (95) and points per game (2.57). After posting career highs in points, goals and assists (55), she earned All-WCHA First Team honors and was named WCHA Player of the Year for the second straight season. In the WCHA playoffs, Wendell contributed eight points (3-5), including the title-winning power-play goal in overtime of the final contest to give the Gophers their second-consecutive playoff title.
The winner of the 2005 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award will be announced at a dinner in Portsmouth, N.H., on Saturday, March 26. The dinner is being held in conjunction with the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four, set for March 25 and 27 at the University of New Hampshire.