Courtesy of Cornell Athletics

Izzy Daniel '24, five years after she first arrived at the Hill, has left an undeniable legacy on Cornell women's hockey.

May 7, 2024

The Sun’s Female Senior Athlete of the Year: Women’s Hockey’s Izzy Daniel

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There is no better embodiment of Cornell Hockey than senior forward Izzy Daniel, the first Cornellian to win the Patty Kazmaier Award. Daniel is not just a product of the program, but also a builder who led the team out of the COVID-19 pandemic and back to NCAA title contention. 

Along the way, she endeared herself to her teammates both on and off the ice through her personality, confidence and humility. Five years removed from her arrival in Ithaca, Daniel departs as one of the best women’s hockey players to ever don the Carnelian and White. 

Daniel came to East Hill from The Blake School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she won two state championships and earned all-state honors two years in a row across four years of varsity hockey. 

Her reasoning for coming to Cornell was ultimately the people.   

“It was a tough decision, but it really came down to my visit at Cornell and the people I met here,” Daniel said. “Obviously, the campus was beautiful, but it was more so the people and the culture.”

Daniel’s initial attraction to the people that make up the women’s hockey program would be proven right time and time again over her four years on campus.

“I knew that she was going to do amazing things at Cornell from the second that she got there,” said Jaime Bourbonnais ’20, a former teammate of Daniel’s turned Canadian national team and Professional Women’s Hockey League player. 

When Daniel arrived on campus in the fall of 2019, she joined a team that had made the Frozen Four the previous spring for the first time since 2012. She had an immediate impact. Daniel finished the season with 17 points and was seventh on the team in assists with 14. She was a key presence on an impressive power play, often playing with future PWHLers such as Kristin O’Neill ’20, Micah Zandee-Hart ’20 and Bourbonnais. 

“She really just fit in so well with the speed of the game right from the first time she put on the jersey, which is pretty remarkable,” Bourbonnais said.

But Daniel’s impact reached far behind the sheet of ice. 

“Between Micah, Jamie Bourbonnais and I, I think we kind of all took Izzy under our wings in a sense,” O’Neill said. “In our senior year, she really looked up to all three of us and I think that relationship was super special,” O’Neill said. 

The feelings were mutual.

“I was really lucky to have such great leadership my first year, and everyone on that team kind of showed me the way of what it means to be a part of this program,” Daniel said.

Daniel learned well, and she learned fast. 

“She had an impact on our team on and off the ice, as soon as she stepped foot on campus,” Bourbonnais said. “Obviously she’s such an incredible player, but she’s such a great person and she brought the team really close together.”  

Daniel’s freshman season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cornell, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation and the top overall seed for the NCAA tournament, was robbed of a chance to win its first national championship. 

The pandemic and the ensuing cancellation of the 2020-21 season, Daniel’s sophomore year, would mark a personal turning point for Daniel.

“When we learned we weren’t playing, I chose to go back home to Minnesota instead of staying enrolled at Cornell,” Daniel said. “That’s when I really started taking hockey more seriously and my career, especially off the ice. 

Daniel said she took the time away from Cornell to improve her strength and off-ice mechanics, citing it as a “huge difference maker.”

“I got a lot stronger, I got a lot faster and that really translated to the ice,” Daniel said.

The stats tell a similar story. In Daniel’s 2021-22 campaign, she finished second on the team in points (32) and assists (24), and third in goals (32). As a sophomore, she was named All-ECAC Hockey third team and earned All-Ivy League Honorable Mention, but her team was ultimately swept in the ECAC quarterfinals by Colgate. 

Daniel’s junior year told a similar story. Daniel tied Gillis Frechette ’23 for the team lead in goals, assists and points, earning All-ECAC second team honors and a nomination for the Patty Kazmaier award. The team improved to 16-14-2, but still was not able to make it out of the ECAC quarterfinals. 

“I feel like [it has] been a rebuilding process of our culture with COVID,” Daniel said. “We kind of had to start again from the ground up.”

By Daniel’s senior year, it was time for the freshman, who had once benefited from strong bonds with her senior teammates, to return the favor. 

“I’m really close with the seniors, especially Izzy,” said freshman forward Karel Prefontaine. “All freshmen are close with our senior class, we love them a lot.”

Cornell won its first two non-exhibition games each by three goals each against then-No. 13 Penn State, and Daniel could tell that something great was forming.

“I think that’s when I realized we have a really great team in here and we have a great group, and we could do some really special things,” Daniel said.

In her senior season, Daniel embarked on her first NCAA tournament — what was painfully taken away in 2019-20 finally arrived four years later. Unfortunately for Daniel and her teammates, their season would end in the regional final via a hard-fought 3-1 loss to Colgate, but that didn’t cloud Daniel’s surplus of accolades.

Daniel concluded her final year at Cornell with an exhaustive list of titles — ECAC Player of the Year, Ivy League Player of the Year, unanimous All-ECAC first team, American Collegiate Hockey Association First Team All-American, U.S. College Hockey Online First Team All-American and First Team All-Ivy.

The senior finished second in the nation in assists per game, seventh in goals per game and third in points per game. But what made Daniel so special — and separated her from the two Wisconsin Badgers who were runners up to the Patty Kazmaier award — was her leadership on and off the ice.

“She’s someone who I felt like I bonded with pretty quickly. She’s very approachable and a super genuine human being,” said junior defender Rory Guilday. “We’re so much more than just teammates and co-captains…we’ve really formed a bond as friends.” 

This love for Daniel both on and off the ice was a sentiment shared by all her teammates who spoke with the Sun. What makes Daniel so special to the women’s hockey program is that she cares about her teammates as friends, not just as fellow hockey players. For example, when Daniel was left off the USA World Championship roster this spring, she still made the drive to Utica to cheer on her former and current teammates in the gold medal game.

To O’Neill, this story is a perfect encapsulation of who Daniel is as a person. “She’s obviously just won the Patty Kaz, and so she obviously is such a good player, but she’s humble, kind, and thoughtful at the end of the day”

Daniel’s humility, even after receiving so much recognition, was a common sentiment among her teammates. “[Daniel is] extremely humble. She doesn’t like attention, she doesn’t like to be given any credit even though she deserves a lot of credit especially for this year,” said Prefontaine.

“She’s really humble,” agreed senior forward Abby Ruggiero. “She doesn’t act better than anyone which I think also might surprise people now within the sport….The respect she has for her teammates and the people in her life, I really haven’t seen anything like that from a player that amazing.”

Daniel will now turn her attention to the 2024 PWHL Draft. Scheduled for June in her home state of Minnesota, Daniel is projected by both The Athletic and The Hockey News to be a top-15 pick. However, she will always be remembered by her teammates and the Lynah Faithful for her time in Ithaca. 

On the ice, Daniel was clearly the best player for Cornell. MVP caliber. But off? An even better person.

“I think that she is one of the best players I’ve ever played with and one of the smartest players I’ve ever played with,” Bourbonnais said. “I know that hockey is not done for her. I’m really excited to see what happens in the draft coming up.”