There are many ways to describe the University of Minnesota’s dominance in women’s hockey. You could talk about the team’s unblemished record, its seasonlong stranglehold on the top rung in the USA Hockey Magazine/USA Today women’s college hockey poll, its 44-game winning streak dating back to last season or its staunch defense of its national championship title.
Or you could look at the list of the three finalists for the 2013 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award and see nothing but the maroon and gold of the Gophers. It marked the first time that the Top-3 finalists represented the same university and put an exclamation point on what has been a dream season in the Twin Cities.
“It’s been remarkable year and a very exciting time for our team and our program,” said head coach Brad Frost.
“It’s pretty amazing when you think about all three of those players all coming from one team, it’s a real special honor. But I truly believe that the committee got it right.”
And no player has been as dominant on such a dominating team as Amanda Kessel, this year's winner of the prestigious award given to the top player in women’s hockey.
The 21-year-old Madison, Wis., native has somehow managed to eclipse her amazing sophomore season (80 points) with an even more remarkable junior campaign with 94 points, which was accomplished on a surgically repaired hip that hampered her for much of the season.
“It’s a historic year for her, points wise, but I think more importantly she has developed into a complete hockey player,” Frost said.
“When you have a player like Amanda you have a chance in every game. She has the ability to break the game open at any moment.”
Kessel led the NCAA in goals (43), assists (51), points (94), points per game (2.94), goals per game (1.34), assists per game (1.59), short-handed goals (5), and is second in game-winning goals (8).
Perhaps the statistic she is most proud of is the fact that she recorded at least one point in each of the 34 games she has played this season, which speaks to a level of consistency she has tried to achieve since coming to the U.
“My consistency is something I wanted to focus on ever since I came here. I think I got better at it last year and this year I’m still improving,” said Kessel, who became the 24th player in NCAA history to reach 200-career points and only the ninth player to do so in three seasons.
Kessel follows Krissy Wendell as the only Gopher to win the Kazmaier award, which is named in honor of the Princeton University defenseman who died of a rare blood disease at 28.
Joining Kessel as a finalist for the award were defenseman Megan Bozek and goaltender Noora Räty.
Bozek, a native of Buffalo Grove, Ill., served as a team captain while anchoring a defensive corps that is first in the nation in goals allowed per game (0.81). She also ranked seventh in the country in assists with 34 and second among defensemen.
Räty, from Espoo, Finland, added to her reputation as one of the world’s top goaltenders with a perfect 33-0-0 record this season and has established a new NCAA single-season record with 15 shutouts to date. She also led the nation in save percentage at .953 and was second in goals-against average at 0.93.
“It’s funny that it ended up this way,” Kessel said of the Kazmaier sweep. “I think it’s awesome to have three different positions represented. It speaks about how deep our program is and what the future will be like.”