The Patty Kazmaier Top-10 Finalist list was announced a couple of weeks ago, and The Ice Garden’s Anne Tokarski and Gabriella Fundaro sat down to talk about who’s likely to make the Top-3, name some honorable mentions and dark horses, and give their predictions on who will win this year’s award.
Thoughts on the Top-10 Finalist pool:
Anne Tokarski: I...was kind of surprised at some of the names in the Top-10 Finalist pool? Like, don’t get me wrong, every player named a Top-10 finalist has had a seriously impressive career up to this point, but some of them haven’t had their best seasons this year. A lot of that can be attributed to the weirdness of this pandemic season, but I think some of these picks were just going off of prestige rather than on-ice play. I don’t want to name names, but there are a couple of players whose nominations had me scratching my head a bit.
Gabriella Fundaro: I do think this was a really difficult year to judge. For most teams it was a super inconsistent year scheduling-wise, which is tough to deal with, and then you factor in everything else going on during a pandemic. It was difficult for almost everyone to get into a real groove and play at their best. It’s also a tough year to compare individual stats between conferences, and some teams had significantly more games than others. Knowing that, there isn’t really anyone on this list who surprised me.
Thoughts on who will be named a Top-3 Finalist:
Tokarski: If Frankel doesn’t make the Top-3 after the season she’s had, I’ll be very concerned. I could also see one of either Alina Müller and Skylar Fontaine making the Top-3, which would add some spice and give Northeastern a 67% chance to take the award home, but at the same time, I think Frankel is more of a lock than Müller and Fontaine, though they’ve both been exceptional. Through process of elimination, I think the Top-3 will include three, obviously, of Frankel, Müller, Fontaine, Watts, and Shirley.
Fundaro: Anne, I love where you’re going with a Patty Kaz Hat Trick for Northeastern, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Minnesota in 2013. We can’t let Minnesota be the only cool team.
On a serious note, I think Alina Müller will make the Top-3. She’s the country’s leading scorer and is as dynamic as any forward we’ve seen at this level. I also think Skylar Fontaine is deserving of a top-three nomination. She’s been so great for Northeastern over her career, and has looked as dominant as ever this year. I feel like she’s playing at a level now where it is nearly impossible for the opponent to stop her from doing what she does best, which is the hallmark of a great player to me.
I agree Frankel’s been excellent, but I wonder if the newly established Goaltender of the Year Award means that we don’t see her nominated as a Top-3 finalist. It’s just incredibly hard to compare goalies and skaters (at least for me). I think Watts is a solid bet for the third finalist spot; she’s been automatic at times for Wisconsin, especially in critical moments.
Not only does Aerin Frankel lead the nation in well... almost everything BUT she has also used this season to overtake multiple records.— Northeastern Women’s Hockey (@GoNUwhockey) March 16, 2021
Winning her first game in the @NCAAIceHockey Championships, she advances with the #HowlinHuskies into the Frozen Four‼️ pic.twitter.com/XdC0NvjW17
Tokarski: I think there were a couple of players that were left out of Top-10 contention, honestly, and a couple of really skilled players that I just know will be left out of the Top-3. For me, Lexi Templeman had a really good season for Robert Morris, but because of the strength of RMU’s schedule (or...lack thereof, I guess), I think she was really overlooked. Same goes for Danielle Serdachny — she led Colgate in scoring and was named the ECAC’s Player of the Year in a season where pretty much everything was up in the air.
Fundaro: I think Chloé Aurard is the biggest name missing here for me. I can totally understand why, seeing how Northeastern has three players in the Top-10 already. But Aurard has been very good in her own right for the Huskies. I also feel like Emily Curlett has deserved more credit for a couple of years now. She didn’t necessarily have the offensive output this year to justify making the shortlist but she’s an excellent two-way defender who logs heavy minutes in all situations for the Colonials.
Thoughts on potential underdogs in the Top-3 race:
Tokarski: I’m gonna have to go with Grace Zumwinkle. She’s definitely had an impressive season from whichever way you look at it, but I feel like when you compare her to the likes of Fontaine, Aurard, and Müller, I just don’t know how to parse it. She’s undeniably a great goal scorer and a talented player, and this season has been no exception to her stellar track record, but I just get the vibe that the Top-3 are going to be Watts, Frankel, and maybe Müller or Fontaine.
Fundaro: I would be a little surprised to see it happen, particularly because of the lack of non-conference play this year, but Kiara Zanon had such a strong freshman year for Penn State and is clearly the real deal. Even if she’s not named a Top-3 Finalist this season, she is a definite player to watch in the future.
2021 Patty Kazmaier Award winner picks:
Tokarski: I know how long it’s been since a non-forward won the Patty Kaz, but if anyone can do it, it’s Frankel. She’s put up such dominant numbers this season — leading the nation in save percentage (0.969), goals against average (0.71), wins (19), and shutouts (9). There’s no player, in my opinion, who has dominated at her position quite like Frankel has, and that’s why I’m putting all my eggs in the “Aerin Frankel for 2021 Patty Kaz” basket.
Fundaro: After proving to be so dominant since she first came to play for Northeastern, I feel like this is Müller’s award to lose. She leads the country with 25 assists and 37 points in 25 games. She’s elite in every single aspect of the game—she’s great on draws, she racks up grade-A chances and points, and she makes plays happen seemingly at will most of the time. And I think the universe just really deserves to see some bonus Müller celebrations this year of all years.