Playing for one of the signature programs in the NCAA, Brianna Decker has the opportunity to make hockey history.
Jennifer Botterill of Harvard was the first woman to win the Patty Kazmaier Award twice —she did so in alternating years (2001, 2003). As the 2012 winner, Decker has the opportunity to be the first to win the award in consecutive years.
The returning senior is only 11 points away from becoming a member of the NCAA 200 point club, and only needs 73 points to surpass Hilary Knight as the Badgers all-time leading scorer. With the graduations of Knight, and Decker’s line mates, Brooke Ammerman and Carolyne Prevost, she will be counted upon to be a key leader in the upcoming campaign.
With back-to-back seasons of at least 80 points, a third consecutive season would definitely place Decker in Kazmaier contention.
As a graduate of Shattuck St. Mary’s, the same prep school where the likes of Jocelyne Lamoureux and Sidney Crosby honed their skills, she is the Badgers spark plug on offense. The 2012 NCAA leader in goals scored (37), she set a Badgers record with 12 game winning goals during the 2010-11 season. The ability to match or exceed those benchmarks without the likes of Knight and Ammerman will surely establish Decker as one of the game’s greatest.
Part of the future of USA Hockey, Decker was the captain of the United States Under-22 squad that swept the Under-22 Canadian squad in a three game exhibition in August 2012.
Playing on a line with the Lamoureux twins (Jocelyne and Monique), Decker had a superlative performance of three points in the victorious third game versus the stunned Canadian squad. In a silver medal winning effort at the 2012 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Burlington, Vermont, Decker produced an impressive ten points (four goals and six assists).
Should the US claim gold at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Decker will likely be a significant factor.
A two-time AHCA Division I All-American, the articulate Decker is also a WCHA All-Academic Team member. Working on a major in Family Studies, the returning senior has unfinished business with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
In a 2011-12 season that saw the Badgers lose only three contests, two of said losses were at the hands of the Gophers (including a 1-0 loss on January 7, 2012). In the 2012 NCAA championship game (a loss against WCHA rival Minnesota), Decker was held pointless in the toughest loss of her career.
Regarding her competition for the Kazmaier, it comes from within her own conference.
North Dakota’s Jocelyne Lamoureux was the runner-up to Decker for the 2012 Kazmaier, while claiming the NCAA scoring title. Noora Raty of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, and Alex Rigsby, Decker’s teammate at Wisconsin, are two superlative goaltenders that have never claimed the award, but have the statistical numbers for serious consideration.
As no one has ever won the Hobey Baker Award in back-to-back seasons (awarded to the best collegiate player in the United States), Decker is flirting with history.
Just like Archie Griffin of Ohio State winning back-to-back Heisman Trophies in collegiate football in 1974 and 1975, Decker’s opportunity to claim the Patty Kazmaier Award in back to back years would be a notable accomplishment in NCAA sporting history (and women’s hockey history) for generations to come.