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Laila Edwards’ Efficiency Led to the Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year Award

By Nicole Haase, 05/30/24, 9:00AM MDT


Edwards was named the MVP of the Women’s World Championship after scoring a tournament-leading six goals.

When Laila Edwards received her first call up to the U.S. Women’s National Team in November 2023, head coach John Wroblewski said, “It’s massive, the things she does well at the college level. It’s up to her to go out and play that same game and when the timing is right, she’ll be doing those same things at the national team level.”

That came more quickly than most everyone imagined. Just five months after her debut early on in the 2023-24 Rivalry Series, Edwards made theroster for the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Utica, New York, and was a force. 

Averaging 10:44 of ice time in each game, she made every second count in her first tournament at the senior level and was named tournament MVP. She tallied a goal and an assist in the gold-medal game after registering a hat trick in the team’s semifinal win over Finland. 

In total, she earned eight points, good for fifth in the tournament. Her six goals — which came on 10 shots — tied her with teammate Alex Carpenter for the tournament lead. 

That performance alongside a second-straight appearance in the NCAA championship game while finishing eighth in the country in scoring are just some of the reasons why USA Hockey named Edwards this year’s recipient of the Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year Award.

This award recognizes the accomplishments of one outstanding American-born women’s hockey player. The late Bob Allen, whom the award is named after, was a major supporter of women’s hockey throughout his career.

Past winners include fellow Wisconsin Badgers Caroline Harvey (2023), Hilary Knight (2014, 2022), Abby Roque (2020), Brianna Decker (2015, 2017) and Meghan Duggan (2011).

“Wisconsin breeds incredible players and people,” Edwards said, crediting her two years under coach Mark Johnson for improving her game. “[Those women] are some of the best players, role models and people that I know.”

In the two years since most people were introduced to her when she was named MVP of the 2022 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship, she has both won and lost an NCAA national championship game and earned two international silver medals at the Under-18 Women’s World Championshipand at the Women’s World Championship. She has become internationally famous as the first Black woman to play for Team USA. 

Despite spending much of the tournament listed as a 13th or 14th forward for the U.S. in Utica, Edwards knew it was important to make the most of her time and make an impact regardless of where she fell in the lineup. 

“I just knew that I had to take every shift like it was my last,” Edwards said. “I’m young, it’s my first tournament so in my head when that lineup came out, I wasn’t like, ‘Oh, no, I’m the 13th forward.’ I looked at it and thought, ‘I’m here with the 13 best forwards in the U.S. This is an incredible opportunity.’”

Edwards said playing alongside the best players in the country motivated her to up her game. She knew she had the make the most of her ice time or she wouldn’t get much of a chance to play. 

One of those players was Taylor Heise, the only other player to earn MVPaccolades at both the Under-18 and senior level World Championships. Edwards is shy and still getting used to being a household name that every media person wants to talk to. However, Heise was happy to be Edwards’hype woman at the Women’s World Championship, telling the press how humble Edwards is and calling her “an amazing human being.” 

Edwards admitted it was unexpected, but it was also amazing to play with a teammate who she meshed well with, could learn from and who wereexcited and happy for her success. The two clicked, said Edwards, excelling at the predictability of play that’s a hallmark of Wroblewski’s coaching. 

“She was predictable to me and smart,” Edwards said. “Our IQs were similar. I was able to get where I knew she’d give the puck to me, and I was able to put it where I knew she would be.”Playing with Heise helped Edwards feel confident — something she said she’s always working on and actively thinking about. It has taken her time to find her footing and believe in not just the player she is, but the player she can be. 

“My confidence is a huge thing — that’s when I am the best player I can be, when I’m confident,” she said. 

Losing two big games this season was difficult, but Edwards said sometimes you learn the most from those difficult situations. After the Frozen Four, she said she never wanted that feeling again. Losing the gold medal doubled down on that instinct. 

Edward’s trying to find a balance between gratitude for all the opportunities she’s had this year and using the disappointment of the losses to fuel her. 

“When you’re tired or fatigued at the end of a tough workout, those losses motivate you and you think, ‘Ok, this is overtime vs. Canada,’” Edwardssaid. “Little things where you make sure that when you get to the gold-medal game, if you get there again, make sure you won’t say to yourself, ‘I wish I had done that, I wish I had done that.’ Just make sure you’ve done everything you could.”

At just 20 years old, it’s difficult to imagine how Edwards will be able to top the season she just had. She hopes she’ll be in a position to play in a national championship and gold-medal game a month apart again, but she isn’t taking it for granted. 

“This has been a crazy past year that I’m super thankful for, and I owe a lot of people thanks,” she said. “I have to learn how to take from it what I can. This was an incredible year. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve played in amazing games. Getting MVP was great. I was just so glad to do it alongside incredible staff, teammates, even better, some of my best friends.”

She doesn’t love answering questions about herself and being the center of attention, but she hopes the signs she sees in the stands with her name on them mean that other Black people feel more welcomed to try hockey. 

“Being the first Black woman and all the media about it, I have to approach it with gratitude because it’s an amazing accomplishment and opportunity to break a barrier,” she said. “The spotlight isn’t my thing, but I have to embrace it and make the best of it because it’s an incredible opportunity.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc

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