Although the regular season is over, we don't have to stop eating, breathing and living hockey just yet. After all, we still have playoff hockey (the best hockey) and we need to take a look back at the best of the best from the year.
It’s nearly impossible to choose which of these five superstar athletes was the best, but we want to know your opinion. Whose 2016-17 performance rose above the rest?
Cast your vote for NC Women's Hockey Player of the Year in the poll below. It closes Tuesday, March 14 at noon Pacific time, so be sure to get your vote in and share with friends so they can vote as well. Let's get to it.
Kelly Pannek, F – Minnesota
2016 Stats: 19 goals, 41 assists
As the nation’s leading scorer and a reigning national champion, Pannek seems to have nothing but impressive seasons. In her first year she amassed 44 points. In her second, 49. Now in her junior season, Pannek notched 60 points to beat out all other scorers in the nation — she added seven game-winners and a 1.62 points per game average in the process.
On a team stacked with offensive talent, Pannek was the best of the best, boasting a 39 plus-minus. Through 37 games, Pannek failed to score in just seven outings. Her highest single-game point total was a five-point outing against Minnesota State.
Who besides me thinks that this scoring superhuman will be able to surpass 60 points next season?
Ann-Renée Desbiens, G – Wisconsin
2016 Stats: 27-1-4 record, .962 save percentage, 0.7119 GAA
Far and away the nation’s most successful goaltender this season, Desbiens was a force in net.
The senior netminder lost just a single start all year, amassing 27 wins in 32 games played. Her staggering goals-against average earned her the honor of being the only goaltender with a GAA less than 1.000 this year.
Fifteen times in the season, Desbiens shut out her opponent, earning more whitewashes than any other netminder in the country. She set the NCAA record for most career shutouts — all genders, all divisions — with 44. And that was back in November. Now she has 51.
It only makes sense that at the helm of the best team in the nation is the best goaltender. Next, Wisconsin aims to earn its first national title since 2011.
Megan Keller, D – Boston College
2016 Stats: 9 goals, 29 assists
Boston College’s junior defenseman earns nothing but praise no matter where she goes and what she does, and it is well-deserved. As the best player in her conference this season, Keller earned the 2017 Cammi Granato Award, and a unanimous selection as a First-Team All-Star.
For the fourth-straight season, the Eagles reached Hockey East’s number one seed, thanks in large part to Keller’s strong play. Keller led all defenseman in scoring with 38 points in 33 games, tallying nine goals and 29 assists over the season. Her 29 assists were enough to put her in the top-ten in assists in the nation.
In her third season, Keller has become the all-time leading scorer among Women’s Hockey East defenseman with 74 points on 15 goals and 59 assists.
Cayley Mercer, F – Clarkson
2016 Stats: 26 goals, 31 assists
In her senior season, Mercer helped lead the third-ranked Golden Knights to a 29-4-5 record and a first-ever ECAC title for the program.
With 57 points on 26 goals and 31 assists in 38 games played, Mercer ranks tied for second in the nation in points. Her 26 goals were good enough to stand alone as number one. She led the league in power-play goals with six.
The captain was a weapon offensively, at one point going on a 13-game point-scoring streak. Over that stretch, Mercer tallied 26 points and led her team to a 9-1-3 record.
As Clarkson’s second all-time leading scorer, Mercer has notched 171 career points in 155 games as a Golden Knight with 77 goals and 94 assists. It’s safe to say that this team will miss her presence when she’s gone next year.
Lara Stalder, F – Minnesota Duluth
2016 Stats: 23 goals, 33 assists
The Bulldogs reached number two in the nation this season, helmed by leading scorer Stalder. The senior forward notched 23 goals and 33 assists for 56 points in 34 games, ranking tied for fourth in the entire nation. Stalder sits in the top five in both goals and assists as well.
As the best player on one of the best teams in the country, Stalder has been a crucial aspect of Minnesota Duluth’s game this season. The scoring phenom failed to notch at least one point in just four games this season, and twice earned four points in a game.
The five-time National Champions will next seek to defeat Minnesota in the NCAA Regionals next weekend.