Gophers junior Amanda Kessel won the Patty Kazmaier Award on Saturday and used part of her speech to sing the praises of the other two finalists — teammates Megan Bozek and Noora Raty.
The Kazmaier Award has been presented annually to the nation’s top player since 1998, yet this was the first time all three finalists came from the same team.
Kessel leads the nation with 44 goals and 53 assists. Raty, a senior goaltender, leads the nation with a 0.91 goals-against average. And Bozek, a senior co-captain, is the nation’s second-leading scoring defenseman with 20 goals and 36 assists.
“Megan, you’re an amazing player,” Kessel said from the podium at the McNamara Alumni Center. “There are so many great parts of your game. You’re not only a steady defenseman, but a huge contributor offensively.
“Noora, I can’t say enough about you as a player. Clearly, you’re our game-changer. You do not have one weakness, and you always keep our team in the game. I can’t even name the amount of records you have broken, but it’s unbelievable.”
BU’s Olympian shines
With 18 goals and 35 assists, Boston University’s leading scorers Marie-Philip Poulin might not have the same gaudy statistics as Kessel, but there is no mistaking Poulin’s talent.
As an 18-year-old, she scored both goals when Team Canada defeated Team USA 2-0 for the gold medal in the 2010 Olympics.
“Poulin is one of the best players in North America,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “That whole line with Poulin, [Jenelle] Kohanchuk and [Sarah] Lefort has been deadly all year.”
The Gophers will counter with a stalwart defense that has allowed 0.8 goals per game, led by All-America goaltender Noora Raty.
“They have a great team, great goaltending, but we have to come out as a team and not put pressure on ourselves,” Poulin said. “We know they are undefeated, but we need to work hard as an underdog and try to match them shift for shift.”
Another streak on the line
Since the NCAA started crowning a women’s hockey champion in 2001, a WCHA team has won every year. Minnesota-Duluth has won five times, Wisconsin four and Minnesota three.
“The three WCHA schools that have won NCAA titles are fantastic hockey institutions,” said BU coach Brian Durocher, whose team lost the 2011 NCAA championship game to Wisconsin 4-1, in its only other trip to the final.
“We’re hoping that we can beat that streak,” Durocher added. “I know there are others out East who have certainly put up a good challenge, but it’s a credit to the WCHA that they’ve won it so many times.”