Spooner runs away with Player of the Year honours
by Andrew PODNIEKS|18 JUN 2024
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Matt Zambonin
Add another notch on the belt of glory for Natalie Spooner this year. The Canadian forward was the overwhelming choice as the IIHF’s Female Player of the Year for 2024, garnering 33.6 per cent of all votes cast by nearly 100 members of the media from the top 16 nations of the Women’s World Championship program.
Second was American Alex Carpenter, who had 14.6 per cent of the votes, ahead of Marie-Philip Poulin (11.5 per cent), Alina Muller (9.1), Jenni Hiirikoski (8.3), and Sandra Abstreiter (7.9 per cent).
In all, some eleven players received at least one vote. Other players nominated included Aija Balode (LAT), Kendall Coyne Schofield (USA), Taylor Heise (USA), Klara Peslarova (CZE), and Susanna Tapani (FIN).
The winner of the inaugural Player of the Year last year was American forward Hilary Knight. Voters consisted of media (70 per cent) and appropriate IIHF Family (30 per cent). The award is intended for the player who excelled at both the IIHF level (Women’s Worlds, World U18 Women’s) and in a domestic league of the highest calibre for that country.
Spooner had a goal and four points at the 2024 Women’s Worlds in Utica, New York, helping Canada win the Gold Medal at the Women’s Worlds for the third time in the last four tournaments. But perhaps more sensational was her play in the PWHL with Toronto. She led the league in goals (20) and points (27), and was named both the Billie Jean King MVP and the league’s Forward of the Year. She also led the PWHL with five game-winning goals during the regular season.
Carpenter was named Directorate Best Forward at the Women’s Worlds and was also named to the All-Star Team. She co-led tournament in scoring with 10 points and helped the United States capture a Silver Medal. In the PWHL, with New York, Carpenter tied for the overall lead in assists and finished fourth in scoring. She was also named one of three PWHL MVP finalists.
“Captain Clutch,” Poulin had another sensational season. She wore the “C” for Canada again at the Women’s Worlds, capturing a Gold Medal. In the thrilling final game, Poulin scored two critical goals to help send the game to overtime. Poulin also captained her PWHL Montreal team and finished tied for second in league scoring. She was also a finalist for PWHL MVP honours.
Muller scored the winning goal to keep Switzerland in Group A at the Women’s Worlds. Her overtime winner was highlight-reel material, but it wasn’t her only big OT goal of the season. She also scored the only goal of the game in double overtime for PWHL Boston in Game 4 of Walter Cup Finals to extend the series. Muller was the only Swiss skater in the PWHL in 2023-24.
The legendary Hiirikoski co-led Finland in points (six) and captained her team to a Bronze Medal at the Women’s Worlds at age 37. This was her record 16th WW tournament, and she also holds the games-played record as well. Hiirikoski also captained Lulea to the SDHL championship (Sweden).
Abstreiter had a sensational Women’s Worlds tournament in Utica, New York in April and was named IIHF Directorate Best Goalie. She posted a 1.19 GAA and a save % of .950in five games and led Germany to an all-time best four wins at the WW. As well, she was the only German goalie in the PWHL during its inaugural 2023-24 season (with Ottawa, three games played).
Coyne Schofield had a superb season after returning from a year off to start a family. She was second in scoring at the Women’s Worlds (nine points) and won a Silver Medal with the U.S. Equally impressive, she captained PWHL Minnesota to the Walter Cup championship in the league’s first season. She finished 13th in scoring in the PWHL regular season.
IIHF president Luc Tardif will present the Player of the Year trophy to Spooner this summer at a date yet to be determined.