NWHL All-Stars put on a SHOW!

You can read all about the Skill Competition Saturday night here thanks to Carolyn Mooney!

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What’s the biggest complaint about the NHL All-Star Game? Compete level. Let me tell you that was the furthest issue from the mind at the 2020 NWHL All-Star Game. Jillian Dempsey’s Team Dempsey took down Madison Packer’s Team Packer by a final score of 5-2 in a game that, were it not for the 4-on-4 structure, would be very difficult to discern from a typical NWHL matchup.

Kate Leary (Metropolitan) got the party started, burying a Madison Packer rebound to give Team Packer an early 1-0 lead. Jonna Curtis (Minnesota) buried the first for Team Dempsey shortly after, taking a sweet feed and burying it top shelf. Nicole Schammel (Minnesota) appeared to catch her Whitecaps teammate Amanda Leville napping in the crease and put one in on the goal line. Kiira Dosdall-Arena (Metropolitan) ripped a clapper in from the tops of the circles late in the first half to put Team Dempsey up 3-1 going into the intermission.

The intermission featured a scrimmage between a youth team from the East Coast Wizards, and a few of the All-Stars who stayed out on the ice to play with the young girls. It might have been the most fun part of the entire day!

The most impactful moment for Team Packer was clearly a mid-game pep talk from celebrity head coach Everly Raycroft, who was assisted by her father and former Bruins goaltender Andrew Raycroft. She made a HUGE difference in the performance of the team!

Team Dempsey’s Rebecca Morse (Metropolitan) made a trip to the penalty box early in the 2nd half (she must have wanted to go visit the fans who had won a chance to watch from the sin bin). Team Packer couldn’t do anything with the powerplay, but Christina Putigna (Boston) set up Amanda Boulier (Minnesota) with a back door feed on a two-on-one shortly afterwards to cut the lead to one. Boulier would then make a trip to the box for Team Packer, and Captain Jillian Dempsey put the team on her back, potting a rebound to restore a 2-goal lead. The Pride’s Lexie Laing fittingly buried the empty netter to ice the game for Team Dempsey, with a 5-2 final.

In a fantastic move by the league, The Boston Globe’s Marisa Ingemi was given the opportunity to choose the All-Star Game’s MVP, as a thank you for all of the work she has done providing and normalizing women’s hockey coverage. She went with Team Dempsey’s Lovisa Selander, the Pride goaltender, who walked away with a full Normatec recovery system.

It was a close, hard fought match-up. Kaleigh Fratkin (Boston) pulled out all the stops, going between the legs on numerous occasions, and even finishing a check on teammate McKenna Brand.

“4-on-4 hockey is just fun,” she said. “I think it’s really the only time you get to play offensive as a defenseman, and jump up in the play almost like a forward, so, trying some creative things out there, it’s, yeah, just trying to have some fun, that’s all I was trying to do.” Obviously, though, the fun and games for Fratkin are over, as her focus has shifted completely to the Isobel Cup for her Boston Pride.

“Yeah, I think it’s just getting back to business, Monday tomorrow we’ll have practice, obviously this is out of the way, so all of the fun, kinda joking stuff is kinda goes out the window now,” Fratkin noted. “It’s pretty serious, we have 3 games left in the regular season, and then playoffs, so yeah, this is behind us, and now the full focus is on the Boston Pride and trying to the Isobel Cup.”

I also had a chance to chat with the Mighty Mouse herself, the Notorious MJP, Buffalo’s MJ Pelletier post-game, after one of the more memorable weekends for any player. Not only was she the anchor in the relay race Saturday night for Team Dempsey (and immediately cracked a joke about not having to duck under the limbo portion of the course being a competitive advantage for her), but she got to play with her former University of New Hampshire teammate, Minnesota’s Jonna Curtis. The two connected on the first Team Dempsey marker of the game, and it was a fun moment for the two UNH alums, “I loved playing with Jonna at UNH, she’s such a great person, an unbelievable player, so I definitely missed playing on the same team as her,” Pelletier said.  “It’s been nice playing against her this year just to catch her in the rink after the game but to be on the same side as her it’s been so fun, just to talk to her this week, and to play a little catch with the puck, so it’s been good.”

Photo Credit – Pat McCarthy

I know many of our Pride fans may be unfamiliar with her exploits, but Pelletier has a penchant for shot blocking, so much so that she is raising money for “The Teacher’s Desk” in Western New York for every blocked shot this season. And, because she’s nothing if not consistent, she laid out to block a shot in the second half with her team holding on to a slim lead. “I mean, I kind of had to, it was a 3-on-1, our team was up, had to do a desperate play to keep a lead, you know?” MJ is just the best.

I wanted to see what someone who didn’t play for the hometown Pride thought about being there for the All-Star game, so I asked her what her favorite part of the weekend was. Naturally, it was about being an inspiration to the next generation. “I think just being here with the girls, getting to know people but really being here for the fans, its so awesome to see the little girls come out today for the skate before the game, so to see them, and how excited they are to see us, to meet us. It really, it fuels the fire underneath you to continue to do this because you love the game and to inspire the next generation to want to do the same thing.”

After asking Fratkin about any takeaways from the weekend for the rest of the regular season, I wanted some insight into how MJ was going to use the lessons she learned to help the Beauts position themselves better for the first round of the Isobel Cup Playoffs. Her answer was absolutely brilliant, noting, “I don’t know, I haven’t even thought about it yet (laughs). I think I’ll have to process it once we’re out of here but uh, we still have 4 games against [the Metropolitan Riveters] and two against Minnesota, so we still have 6 games left, gotta really bare down, try to get ahead, to try to place higher for playoffs, so, I don’t know, I guess I’ll have to like maybe go back, watch some tape from the All-Star Weekend, but no, it’s been a lot of fun.” I may be biased, but can the Pride please trade for her, based simply off her quotability alone?

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(This is probably a good time to note that I am incredibly biased due to the fact that I have worked with the UNH women’s program the past two years doing analytics and video, so I have known MJ for a while)

Also, she provided us with the best meme of the entire weekend:

MJ Meme
Original Photo Credit to Pat McCarthy

Were there snafus? For sure. I didn’t see the Twitch stream Sunday, but The Victory Press’ Melissa Burgess reported that the audio was inconsistent, and that the feed cut out at times. I noticed a few missteps with the onscreen graphics during the skills competition Saturday night. But we also have to remember the resources the league is working with. And the in-arena experience was brilliant. There was a full pro-shop for fans to get all of their All-Star and Pride gear, the players were incredibly accessible and friendly, WE HAD AN ON-ICE CONGA LINE PEOPLE. The building was packed, and there were so many little kids (a lot of young girls, but there were definitely some young boys, which cannot be overlooked) sporting jerseys and hats of their favorite women’s players. That’s who this game is for. And it helps that the NWHL, amidst its own whirlwind week, had the wherewithal to issue a statement congratulating USA Hockey on their record-breaking attendance for the final RIvalry Series game in Anaheim that same night. They were featured on NESN and the NHL Network the week leading up to the game, neither of which took place last year. And the product was amazing.

Personally, I got to meet a ton of awesome people. Seeing Mike Murphy was pretty cool again, I met the fabulous Angelica of the Ice Garden (@ReinaDeLaIsla), as well as the Pride’s fantastic social media guru, Juliana Nikac.

 

As for the Pride, they’ve got 3 games left. Then the real battle begins.

By: Spencer Fascetta | @PuckNerdHockey on Twitter

PuckNerd

Just a crazy college kid who loves math, loves hockey even more, and feels the need to write about it sometimes. I am currently developing my own hockey statistic. You can follow me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey, and check out my YouTube channel, PuckNerd, where I discuss hockey statistics, news, and Bruins' related content!

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