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Brandt, Bona Blossom for Gophers

03/17/2014, 2:30pm CDT
By Jessi Pierce, Touchpoint Media

Hannah Brandt has been an offensive machine in Minnesota for years, so it’s no surprise she’s one of the three finalists for the 2014 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, which is given annually to the nation’s best women’s Division I hockey player.

But it might be a surprise that she struggled when she first hit the ice.

“She lacked some of the basic skills, as expected at 5, 6 and 7 years old,” said Vic Brodt, who coached Brandt as a Mite in the Roseville Youth Hockey Association up. “She was a poor skater to begin with – her parents would agree – but that didn’t stop her.”

What Brandt lacked in natural abilities, she made up for in determination. She worked on her skills and became a rink rat on the outdoor rinks.

“She seemed to love the game and showed that passion at a very young age,” said Brodt. “Although impossible to determine how good a player she would become, you could see at a young age her determination would take her as far as she wanted.”

And it has taken her far.

Brandt moved to the White Bear Lake Youth Hockey Association to play 12U and 14U before breaking out at Hill-Murray, where she tallied 133 goals and 108 assists throughout her high school career. She was named Ms. Hockey in 2012 and both the Star Tribune’s and Pioneer Press’ Player of the Year.

Brandt was a top-10 Patty Kaz finalist last season, when she scored 82 points in 41 games as a freshman for the 2013 national champion Gophers. She currently leads women’s Division I hockey with 63 points (22 goals, 41 assists) this season.

If selected, Brandt would become just the second sophomore to win the award.  Jennifer Botterill is currently the only player to win it as a sophomore as well as the only two-time award winner, claiming it in 2001 and 2003 while playing for Harvard University.

The world will find out on Saturday if all of her hard work took her to the top, when the winner will be announced as part of the 2014 Women’s Frozen Four in Hamden, Conn. Clarkson University senior forward Jamie Lee Rattray and Cornell University junior forward Jillian Saulnier are the other finalists.

Past Gophers to win the award include Amanda Kessel (2013) and Krissy Wendell (2005).  Wendell, a Brooklyn Park native and two-time Olympian, is the only Minnesotan to win the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award since it was instituted in 1998.

Bona-fide Player

Junior Rachael Bona has been nipping at Brandt’s heels all year in what has been a breakout 2013-14 season where she has more than doubled her combined point total from the two previous season. With 58 points (21 goals, 37 assists), her point production earned her a spot on the 2014 Patty Kazmaier top-10 list.

“Rachael has grown up with the mentality that she was always going to prove everyone wrong,” said Coon Rapids coach Jess Christopherson. “She is the hardest working kid I've ever coached and she really has paved her own path. She wants to be relied upon and she won't stop until she gets it right.”

Bona honed her skills in the Coon Rapids Youth Hockey Association. In high school, she was a Ms. Hockey finalist and compiled 165 goals and 104 assists.

Since joining the Gophers, she has been a part of back-to-back national championships, totaling 105 points (43 goals, 62 assists) in three years. And though she narrowly missed the top-three cut, her legacy continues to grow both on and off the ice.

“To this day, Rachael would do anything I asked of her when it comes to our program,” said Christopherson. “She comes back and helps with the younger players, she speaks at banquets, she serves breakfast at the middle school. She understands what it means to be a role model and she is proud of her community.

“She gets it. And she does this all while playing at the highest level and being an excellent student on top of it.”

The Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Brunch will be held on March 22, 2014, in Connecticut, in conjunction with the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four hosted at Quinnipiac University.  Visit www.PattyKaz.com to learn more.

The University of Minnesota Gopher Women’s Hockey team will continue their quest for a third consecutive NCAA Division I National Championship as they take on Wisconsin in the semifinals on Friday, March 21st.

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