The NWHL’s stars were on full display this past weekend in Boston and boy did they put on a show. On Saturday night Team Packer edged out Team Dempsey during the All-Star Skills Challenge 5-3, but Sunday afternoon Team Dempsey got their revenge and won the All-Star Game by a final of 5-2. The home team was well represented on both squads and goaltender Lovisa Selander was named MVP of the fifth NWHL All-Star Game after stopping 17 of the 18 shots she faced.
“It was fun to play. I think with their speed, and it being a 4-on-4 game, it’s interesting,” said Selander who is in her first year with the Boston Pride. “It creates a lot of opportunities for the forwards. I think we wanted a rematch from the competition last night, so we were ready to go.”
Selander had to face some of her current teammates on the opposing team which was an interesting twist for the Swedish netminder. “I know Mary (Parker) and Tee (Christina Putigna) have their spots in practice, and they snipe me a lot,” she said with a smile. “I thought one of the forwards would win the MVP, they had a lot of nice goals today.”
Snipers, Bombers, and Cheetahs
On Saturday Boston Pride captain Jillian Dempsey won the Accuracy Shooting Challenge by destroying all four targets in just five shots, and she did it in 9.69 seconds. “A couple of years ago in Minnesota I came in second and that stayed with me,” Dempsey said after. “I lost to (Corinne) Buie and it was on five pucks. I wanted to beat that, and I don’t think I quite beat that but my time did, so I guess I got better and that’s great.”
Dempsey’s Boston teammate Kaleigh Fratkin won the Hardest Shot Challenge for Team Packer with a slap shot that clocked in at 76 mph, just edging three other players who finished at 73 mph. “I take enough slap shots during hockey games and it definitely paid off,” Fratkin said.
Grace Klienbach of the Connecticut Whale won the first event of the night, winning the Fastest Skater Challenge for Team Packer with a time of 13.6 seconds. “It’s very exciting. I’m not gonna lie, I was so nervous! I was the first skater, in the first event of the night,” said a relieved Klienbach with a smile. “Every other player that went – I was sweating it out. It was nerve-wracking, but also exciting and really fun.”
Skills On Skills On Skills
Mariah Fujimagari of the Buffalo Beauts (18.85 seconds) edged out fellow netminder Amanda Leveille of the Minnesota Whitecaps for Team Dempsey in the always fun Fastest Goalie Challenge. An event new to this year’s Skills Challenge was the Relay Race Challenge and the team of Emma Vlasic, Marie-Jo Pelletier, Taylor Accursi, and Nicole Schammel won the event for Team Dempsey.
“It was a fun weekend overall and I’m really glad I got to experience it,” said Leveille at the conclusion of the weekend. “Something that normally doesn’t happen, happened this weekend – my entire family was here to see me play and that was super fun.”
Team Packer won the Breakaway Challenge by a score of 4-2 and although the goalies (Leveille, Lovisa Selander) starred, the players put on a fun display of memorable moments. Madison Packer pulled her jersey off to take her shot in her wife’s (Anya Packer) jersey, Christina Putigna skated in backward before whipping a shot past Selander, and for the finale, Taylor Accursi and Sam Walther switched roles after a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors – and ended up being a little role reversal from when Accursi scored four goals against Walther and the Riveters in the Buffalo Believes Outdoor Classic in late December.
In Sunday’s All-Star Game the two teams played four aside over two, 25-minute halves and after letting Team Packer score the game’s opening goal Team Dempsey responded with three straight in the first half. Riveters scoring star Kate Leary scored the only goal on Selander five minutes into the game before a pair of Minnesota Whitecaps gave their team a lead they would never relinquish. Jonna Curtis and Nicole Schammel scored goals three minutes apart and then Kiira Dosdall-Arena put home the eventual game-winner in the slot, converting a nifty pass by Vlasic from behind the net.
“I walked it out from behind the net after Lexie (Laing) made a play and there was an opening (to shoot). I roomed with Lev this weekend and I never score on her (in practice) so I was happy I could today,” said Curtis who takes bragging rights back to Minnesota with her.
“This (whole weekend) was a blast. From the moment we got here until now, it’s been a ton of fun and really well done,” said Dosdall-Arena as she was about to sign autographs for fans. “I don’t score goals too often, so it was nice to do it here and make up for my disappointment on my Hardest Shot attempts.”
The second half was mostly a goalie duel between Fujimagari and Leveille until three goals were scored over the final seven minutes. Amanda Boulier brought Team Packer back within one at 18:17, but three minutes later Dempsey rifled home a power-play goal to restore breathing room for her team. Lexie Laing potted an empty-net goal with under a minute remaining. Two rookies who have been stellar this season for their respective teams, Laing (g-a) and Vlasic (2a), had two points each for the victors, and fourth-year veteran defender Rebecca Morse of the Metropolitan Riveters also had two assists for the winners.
“It was really exciting, I had a great weekend,” said Vlasic who hadn’t had an assist all season. “A great opportunity to meet a lot of new people that you play against but don’t really know. It was a lot of fun to be a part of. It feels good to get an assist,” she added with a chuckle.
Most importantly everyone had fun and a standing-room-only crowd & thousands of viewers on Twitch were treated to two days of celebrating the league’s best players on the ice in Boston at Warrior Ice Arena. “It was nice having a home weekend here in Boston, even though it’s not part of the regular season,” added Selander. “We were on the road a lot after Christmas, so it’s kind of nice to stay home, have fun, relax, and meet some new players over the weekend.”
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.