Earlier this month, the NWHL announced that it’s All-Star Game will take place on February 10, 2019, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville following a Predators game. Free admission to the game will be included in Predators tickets purchased for that day. However, you can buy tickets for the event alone, or in a package with the skills competition portion held the day before.
Shannon Szabados, Buffalo Beauts goalie and Lee Stecklein, Minnesota Whitecaps defender, will be team captains.
This is the first time that women’s hockey on a professional level has ventured to the South, which is a big step in the right direction. The 2018 All-Star Game was held in Minnesota, and the league added a new team there just months later. So it brings speculation to whether Nashville has a future in the NWHL.
The Riveters have been off to a rocky start this season compared to the last, despite very minimal roster changes, so it will be interesting to see which Metro players get chosen to go the All-Star Game. Of course, time constraints and ‘real life jobs’ do inhibit players from being able to attend sometimes, but barring those exceptions, here are my predictions.
Katie Fitzgerald: As I’ve said before, Fitzgerald’s .865 save percentage is not indicative of how she has played this season. She’s made some phenomenal, highlight reel saves. And despite having 25 goals against for the season so far, she has made the opposing teams work for them. Most of her goals against have also come very late in the game, where the Riveters usually keep it tight until well into the third period. Leaving Fitzgerald off the roster would be a travesty.
Rebecca Russo: Another repeat, Russo seemed to be the only Riveter making moves early in the season. Alongside Packer and Kessel, Russo completes one of the toughest top lines to face and thus far has generated most of the power and scoring for the Rivs. She is a strong force for the Riveters and the key playmaker on the team, as well as being probably the most intimidating player to face for the Rivs. She’s earned her spot as an all-star this year, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Amanda Kessel: Russo’s linemate, and another repeat all star, there’s no way that Kessel doesn’t make the team. She’s got the most points of all the Riveters with 7 so far, despite only having one goal. It seems that Kessel and Russo are a tag team and wherever they go, the goals go, too. They’ll be a force to be reckoned with in Nashville.
Audra Richards: A rookie out of Maine, where she spent two seasons as the top goal scorer, Richards cemented her spot as a pro with a hat trick against the Whale in the Riveters most recent game. I don’t think anyone knew what they were expecting when Richards signed, but she’s been impressive. If she continues to play the way she has, she makes a serious case for rookie of the year or league MVP. I can’t see a single thing stopping her from being in Nashville in February.
Chelsea Ziadie: While the Riveters defense has seemed rather stale this season, I tried to look outside the box and move around the obvious or repeating choices for the All-Star Game. Ziadie has 3 points this season, a goal and two assists and an insane 20.0 SOG percentage for a defender. On a defense that isn’t making much noise, she’s definitely keeping them alive and her ability to play on both sides of the blue line will be a strong addition to the all-star roster.
Jenny Ryan: Finally, I end my list with another potential all-star newcomer. Like Ziadie, Ryan is one of five defenders to have played in every game this season and has definitely made significant moves to put the puck on net. Michelle Picard and Kelsey Koelzer are two obvious choices who would be headed to their second all-star game. But Ryan has been making moves on the ice and creating opportunities for offense better than anyone other than Ziadie. Her spot would be rightfully deserved.