With the Class of 2012 having seen some of the greatest players ever (Hilary Knight, Florence Schelling, Hillary Pattenden, Genevieve Lacasse, Natalie Spooner, Bailey Bram) graduate to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, it would have been easy to write off the 2012-13 NCAA season as a transitional year.
Instead, remarkable rookies such as Erin Ambrose and Hannah Brandt have turned the NCAA on its ear. It is no surprise that their squads, Clarkson (featuring Ambrose) and Minnesota (with Brandt) enjoy a mid-season rank of #2 and #1 in the national polls, respectively.
Although the NCAA saw expansion with the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers, both clubs have managed to earn respectable starts. In addition, the 10-6-2 start by the Frozen Four runner-up Wisconsin Badgers has brought an unforeseen level of parity to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Established players such as Amanda Kessel, Christine Bestland, Jamie-Lee Rattray and Marie-Philip Poulin continue to stake their claim as players worthy of consideration for the 2014 Winter Games. Meanwhile, all four have enjoyed banner years and should emerge as top ten finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award.