The ten finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award, given annually to women’s college hockey’s top player, were just announced this week. Boston College defenseman Megan Keller is Hockey East’s only representative, and — fact, not opinion — is the most deserving player for this year’s award.
BC Women’s Hockey had its very first Patty Kazmaier Award winner just two years ago, when Alex Carpenter won the award going away with some stunning offensive numbers in a year of, well, stunning offensive numbers. This year’s women’s hockey season couldn’t have been more different — the nation’s top scorer, Minnesota’s Kelly Pannek, has put up points at a 1.67 PPG clip. That’s very good, no doubt, but in Alex Carpenter’s winning year, five players scored at a higher rate. Last year was the same story — five players scored more than 1.67 PPG.
It has been a year of defense. It’s time to finally recognize the nation’s best defenseman as the nation’s top player. In the history of the Patty Kazmaier Award, only one defenseman, Harvard’s Angela Ruggiero in 2004, has ever won. Megan Keller should be the second. Consider the statistics:
Keller has put up over a point per game... as a defenseman. In fact, she’s the only defenseman to do so in the last two years — and she did so in both of them. And while her scoring prowess is nothing short of brilliant, that’s only part of what makes her so impressive.
Keller is, without question, the best two-way player in America. Despite regularly jumping into the attack from the blue line, she’s still in a virtual tie with the nation’s best defensive-defensemen in +/- on a per game basis. And that’s pretty incredible — Keller regularly plays below the goal line, and still has the speed and skill to get back should conditions warrant.
But that’s not all. Perhaps the most important part of Megan Keller’s body of work goes beyond the raw numbers. She has been forced into playing superhero minutes — over 30, sometimes 40 minutes per game — due to a severely depleted Boston College lineup. For the last several weeks of the regular season, Megan Keller was one of only two Eagle defensemen on the active roster that saw playing time on the season’s opening weekend. For a significant chunk of the year, BC was rolling four defensemen, with Keller being double-shifted every time she was on the ice.
The playing time was absurd, and it’s amazing she didn’t keel over and die, let alone see a dip in effectiveness. Instead, Keller’s production hit a new level. In her last 5 games, Keller has gone 4-7—11 with a +10. In her last 12 games, since January 20th, she’s gone 7-14—21 with a +14. Forget defensemen — she’s the nations third highest scorer among all players in that time frame, with the nation’s sixth best +/-.
Simply put, that’s incredible.
In the most important stretch of the year, she has carried Boston College, playing superhuman minutes and putting up two-way numbers that are making the nation’s top forwards jealous.
There has never been a better time to recognize a defenseman, and the country’s best all-around player, with the award she deserves. No forwards have put up the gaudy numbers that typically earn recognition. And the only worthy goaltender plays for the country’s top team built with a roster that I — me, Grant, personally — could put up double digit shutouts behind.
All the games under consideration are in the books, and Megan Keller deserves the award. It’s in the committee’s hands now.