It’s the biggest weekend of the NCAA women’s hockey season, and few know it better than Premier Hockey Federation rookie Daryl Watts.
The Toronto Six forward was the 2018 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award recipient at Boston College, then won a 2021 national championship with the University of Wisconsin. Both prestigious honors will be presented in Duluth, MN as part of the 2023 Frozen Four festivities.
“That was my first year in college hockey and my first year in America being from Toronto, so it was a really big transition,” Watts recalls of her individual award-winning season. “I played with (Connecticut Whale forward) Caitrin Lonergan pretty much that entire year, and we just had unbelievable chemistry. Without her I don’t think I would have had such a special year, so I really attribute that successful year in terms of statistics to Caitrin. We did really well and had a lot of fun.”
Watts led all NCAA DI skaters in scoring during the 2017-18 season with 82 points including 42 goals and 40 assists in 38 games and is the first and only freshman to be recognized as the NCAA’s top player since the award was introduced in 1998.
“The top-10 list was really cool, and then to be among the final three nominees was special,” Watts said. “I flew out to Minnesota for the ceremony and that was obviously a huge honor, and then won the award. I was nominated with Victoria Bach and Loren Gabel who are two of who I think are the best players in the world. Growing up they’re a few years older than me so I always kind of idolized them, so just to be nominated with them was like a win for me.”
Gabel led the PHF in scoring this season as a newcomer in Boston, but that season at Clarkson University she finished tied with Watts’ linemate Lonergan for second in the nation with 75 points. Her Golden Knights teammate and fellow Pride forward Élizabeth Giguère was right behind with 71 points for a future all-PHF top four. Gabel followed Watts to win her own Patty Kaz award in 2019, followed by Giguère in 2020 to make it three in a row for current PHF stars.
“The future of this league is bright for the next generation of stars,” Watts said. “It’s incredible because during my time in the NCAA, Loren Gabel and Élizabeth Giguère were two of the top five players every year. They were the best. Playing against them, watching them, I loved to watch them. I think they’re so incredible. Last weekend to play them was so much fun because you want to…
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