Canadians in running for Patty Kazmaier Award

FILE--Minnesota's Gigi Marvin (19) competes with Mercyhurst's Vicki Bendus, right, during a women's NCAA semifinal college third period hockey game in Boston, Friday, March 20, 2009. Bendus of Wasaga Beach, Ont., is following in the big footsteps on Canadian Olympic team forward Meghan Agosta at Mercyhurst University. Bendus is a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award, which goes to the top female hockey player in the NCAA, and hopes to lead the Lakers in the Frozen Four tournament next week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Lisa Poole

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Forwards Kelly Paton of Woodstock, Ont., and Vicki Bendus of Wasaga Beach, Ont., were two of the three finalists named Tuesday for the Patty Kazmaier Award, which goes to the best female college hockey player in the U.S.

The other finalist was goaltender Noora Raty of Finland, who recently led her country to a bronze medal at the Olympics.

The winner will be named March 20 in Minneapolis, Minn.

Bendus, a Mercyhurst junior, tied for the NCAA in points (62) and short-handed goals (5). The 20-year-old had 27 goals and 35 assists in 34 games. She was also named named the College Hockey America Player of the Year. Bendus helped the Lakers secure top seeding for the NCAA tournament March 19-21 in Minneapolis. She also played on Canada's under-22 team last year.

Paton, a senior captain at the University of New Hampshire, had 19 goals and 32 assists in 32 games for the Wildcats. She ranked fourth in the NCAA in assists per game (1.00), fifth in points per game (1.59) and was tied for sixth in points with 51.

Raty tended goal for both Finland and the University of Minnesota this season. She posted a 17-3-4 record for the Golden Gophers, carrying a 1.24 goals-against average and a .951 save percentage.

The Patty Kazmaier Award is named for the former Princeton defenceman, who died of a blood disease in 1990. She was just 28. The award winner is chosen by a 13-member selection committee that includes coaches, media and a representative of USA Hockey.

A number of Canadian and American players took a year off from college hockey in 2009-10 to prepare with their respective national teams for the 2010 Olympics.

Previous Canadian winners include Winnipeg's Jennifer Botterill (Harvard, 2001, 2003), Sara Bauer of St. Catharines, Ont., (Wisconsin, 2006) and Sarah Vaillancourt of Sherbrooke, Que., (Harvard, 2008). Botterill is the only player to have won the award twice in its 13-year history.

Wisconsin goaltender Jessie Vetter won the Kazmaier last year. She beat out finalists Vaillancourt and Meghan Agosta of Ruthven, Ont. Both Canadians recently won an Olympic gold medal. Canada beat Vetter and the U.S. team 2-0 in the final Feb. 25.