DULUTH — The highest individual honor in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey is named after Patty Kazmaier, who was a standout defenseman at Princeton from 1981-86. She died of a rare blood disease in 1990 at the age of 28.
Despite Kazmaier being a blue liner who led the Tigers to three-straight Ivy League titles, Harvard’s Angela Ruggiero in 2004 was the only defenseman to ever win the award since its inception in 1998.
That finally changed Saturday when Ohio State fifth-year defenseman Sophie Jaques was announced as the 2023 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner, one season after she had been passed over as a top-three finalist by Minnesota forward Taylor Heise.
“I’m definitely so honored and humbled to be on this list, and to be one of only two defenseman is incredible,” Jaques said. “I’m so happy to get some recognition for great defensive play and I hope there’s so many other defenseman to win in the future.”
The first Buckeye to ever win the award, Minnesota Duluth coach Maura Crowell called Jaques “a program-changing player” and “a special category of player” back on March 3 following the Bulldogs’ 2-1 loss to OSU in the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinals at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
Buckeyes coach Nadine Muzerall said Saturday it doesn’t matter how many kids enter the transfer portal, or how many kids grow up as the next generation of elite hockey players, another defenseman like Sophie Jaques is going to be “a very tough person to find.”
“There have been a lot of great forwards, but that seems to be ordinary,” said Muzerall, who put up over 200 points in her four seasons as a forward at Minnesota in the late 1990s and early 2000s. “You’re going to have somebody that can score 60-65 points-plus. But to find a defenseman that scores as often she does, produces that many points, stays out of the box, is clutch on penalty kill and five-on-five, and the defensive side of things, too … how do you find a defenseman of that caliber?”
Jaques helped lead the Buckeyes to their first NCAA championship a year ago via a win over UMD at Penn State, and she has OSU back in the national championship game again at 3 p.m. Sunday against Wisconsin at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
Minnesota center Taylor Heise won the award last year. The Gophers were eliminated in the national semifinals on Friday with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Badgers.
What: NCAA championship game
Who: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
When: 3 p.m., Amsoil Arena, Duluth
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