The Nashville Predators hosted a collection of the best NWHL stars from across the league this weekend for the 2019 NWHL All-Star Game. With five Riveters on the roster, they made some waves in both the skills competition Saturday night, and the game itself the following day.
Four Riveters, Amanda Kessel, Madison Packer, Shelly Picard, and rookie Audra Richards were chosen for Team Szabados. In their white jerseys, they swept the weekend, winning both the Skills Competition and the All-Star Game thanks largely in part to Kessel’s impeccable shootout ability and trick shot creativity. The final Riveter chosen to play was Courtney Burke. However, she wore purple for Team Stecklein.
Beginning the weekend with a sold-out crowd at Ford Ice Center, and a livestream following of almost half a million viewers, the Skills Competition started off with the Fastest Skater competition which Whitecaps forward, Kendall Coyne Schofield, who participated in the same event with NHL players last month, took home first place with a time of 13.91 seconds.
For reference, this was even faster than when she skated on a national stage, and would have landed her in 4th place among the NHL players rather than the 7th she took at the time. The only Riveter to participate in that event was captain Shelly Picard, who pulled an impressive 14.84 seconds.
The next event a Riveter participated in was rookie Audra Richards in the hardest shot competition. The consensus among everyone watching was that Blake Bolden of the Buffalo Beauts and former winner of this competition would win. She previously had a hardest shot clock in at 87 mph. Lee Stecklein of the Whitecaps would probably be her only competition. Respectively, they took first and second place.
However, Richards showed up and held the first place spot until they shot with a speed of 72 mph. Stecklein beat her by just one mile-per-hour faster, and Bolden impressively hit an easy 80.
Finally, the fun and unique challenge that is voted on solely by fans in attendance of the game, and my personal favorite, took place. The trick shot challenge. Both Kessel and Packer participated and arguably secured the win for Team Szabados. Kessel was successful with her hidden puck trick, followed by taking it all home as the team got into ‘Flying V’ formation to pay homage to the Mighty Ducks.
Unsurprisingly, the competition ended in a tie leading to a ‘captains only shootout’ between Stecklein and Szabados in which Szabados didn’t let a shot by her. Much like she wouldn’t do the following day during the All-Star Game.
Designed in two 25 minute periods with 4-on-4 hockey, each rostered goalie played one period. Shannon Szabados took the first and continued her shutout from the night before to go on and take home MVP of the game.
The Riveters though, were responsible for opening and closing the game with goals. Audra Richards scored first in the game on Beauts goalie, Nicole Hensley. And after the game ended in a 2-2 tie in regulation, Amanda Kessel was the lone shootout goal scorer to seal the deal.
Boston Pride rookie, Katie Burt saved all three shots for Team Szabados in the shootout, cementing the win though her captain ended up bringing home the MVP prize. The celebration did not end there, as the Predators announced that the attendance of 6,120 guests broke the professional women’s hockey attendance record in the United States.
The fun is over now, as the players head back to their cities to gear up for the playoffs, but a handful of Riveters did leave their mark on this year’s All-Star Game. Amanda Kessel will get some extra ice time in before the Riveters compete for a playoff spot with Team USA, as they will begin a three-game international series against Canada on Feb. 12, 14, and 17. Dubbed the ‘rivalry series’ these games will feature 15 NWHL players, including the two only Riveters representation in Kessel and Picard.