She beat out Canadian Daryl Watts, a forward from Wisconsin who scored the championship-winning goal against Frankel days before, and American Grace Zumwinkle from the University of Minnesota.
The voting was conducted by a 13-person selection committee made up of NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey coaches, journalists, and representatives from USA Hockey.
“There have been so many amazing players that have come before me, and to have my name on a list alongside them is very humbling and makes me very proud,” said Frankel. “To represent our university and to get another goalie’s name on that list is pretty cool, too. All the recipients of this award are part of a very special group, and I’m really excited to join them.”
“I am so happy for Aerin. She has worked extremely hard to get to this point,” said head coach Dave Flint. “She put up numbers this season that may never be touched, and she was a huge part of our run this season to the national championship game. Myself and the entire Northeastern community are so proud of her.”
Frankel also led the league in goals-against average, 0.81, and set a new record with a 96.6 save percentage.
“Our class is really a special one,” Frankel noted. “We came in my freshman year and put up that first banner which was the Hockey East championship. We realized how much potential our team had, and I think there was a lot of change to our team culture over the past four years. It has been incredible to watch the program grow. Obviously, it’s awesome that we had our first Frozen Four appearance this year. This program is just going to keep building off of that. The sky is the limit.”
The ceremony was broadcast live on the NHL Network, and the trophy was handed out by Kendall Coyne Schofield, a Northeastern alumna who won the award in 2016. The only other Northeastern player to have won was Brooke Whitney in 2002.
Frankel is only the fourth goalie to be so honoured in the 24-year history of the trophy. The others are Ann-Renee Desbiens (2017, Wisconsin, CAN), Jessie Vetter (2009, Wisconsin, USA), and Ali Brewer (2000, Brown, USA).
Frankel rose to prominence at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, leading her team to four national championships. She was named to the U.S. team for the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, which was cancelled because of the pandemic, and she is now at camp preparing for the 2021 Women’s Worlds set to be played in Halifax and Truro from 6-16 May.
What the Kazmaier means to her future is anyone’s guess. Several winners have gone on to great careers in the women’s game while others struggled to maintain their college form and improve as the competition got tougher.
Jennifer Botterill is the only two-time winner of the Kazmaier, in 2001 and 2003, and she had a remarkable career with Canada in IIHF play, winning three Olympic gold and five Women’s Worlds gold and being named WW MVP twice (2001, 2004).
Botterill’s roommate at Harvard, Angela Ruggiero, won the Kazmaier in 2004, and went on to a Hall of Fame career for Team USA. One of Ruggiero’s international teammates, Julie Chu, won in 2007 and played on many a gold-medal team with Ruggiero. Sarah Vaillancourt was the most recent Harvard alumna to win, in 2008, and she also was part of two Olympic champions with Canada. Harvard had Kazmaier winners six times in a ten-year stretch and Wisconsin had five winners between 2006 and 2017.
More recent winners represent a who’s who of America’s top players of the last two generations of international players, including Meghan Duggan (2011, Wisconsin), teammate Brianna Decker (2012, Wisconsin), Amanda Kessel (2013, Minnesota), and Alex Carpenter (2015, Boston College).
Although Americans have won 14 of the 24 editions of the trophy, Canadians won three of the last four before Frankel, and they all hope to be on the national team for Halifax: Watts (2018, Boston College), Loren Gabel (2019, Clarkson) and Elizabeth Giguere (2020, Clarkson).