The 2020 NWHL All-Star Weekend was held at Warrior Ice Arena in Boston this past weekend to a sold-out crowd, and an average of over 10,000 Twitch stream viewers. Team Packer took the win in Saturday’s Skills Competition, while Team Dempsey ultimately won the game on Sunday.
Seven Riveters participated in some regard during the weekend and most of them made a big impact on the results.
Skills Competition Results
There were six events in this year’s All-Star festivities, including a new relay race competition and shootout in which every player participated in.
While everyone had their eyes on former speed skater Allie Thunstrom to win the fastest skater competition, it was actually Grace Klienbach of the Whale for Team Packer who took the event, with a lap time of 13.6 seconds. However, after two-day review, this event was amended to award Thunstrom of the Whitecaps the win with a faster time.
For reference, this would have placed them both fifth among the NHL All-Stars who competed in St. Louis weeks prior, just half a second off from Mat Barzal’s winning time. It was also over a second faster than Kendall Coyne-Schofield’s famous run from last year. No Riveters participated in this event, but Team Packer did receive a point.
Next was the Fastest Goalie Skater competition, an event unique to the NWHL. In this race, two goalies begin at opposite red lines and skate a full lap around the ice in full goalie gear. Team Dempsey grabbed a point in this event from Beauts’ goalie Mariah Fujimagari, with a lap time of 18.85 seconds.
Finally, we saw some Riveters representation in the Accuracy Shooting Challenge. Ultimately, Jillian Dempsey of the Pride took another point for her team after going four for four in 9.69 seconds, breaking an NWHL record for this event. Madison Packer, Riveters’ captain, sought to defeat her by going last in the event, but after some trouble with the lower right target, she completed it in 13.54 seconds. Again for reference, Dempsey would have taken second place by a hair in the NHL Skills Competition, while Packer would have landed in fourth place.
In the Hardest Shot competition, former Riveter Audra Richards attempted to defend her impressive third place shot from last year. While she did not win, she took a tie in second place while besting her previous shot speed of 72 mph with 73. The winner was her Team Packer teammate Kaleigh Fratkin of the Pride with a 76 mph shot.
Kiira Dosdall-Arena and Rebecca Morse represented the Riveters in that event for Team Dempsey. They hit 67 mph and 73 mph respectively. The all-time best speed in this event will still be held by Megan Bozek with 88 mph.
After that, the new Relay Race event took place. With four representatives from each, both teams battled head-to-head in a race that consisted of stickhandling through and around cones, and then over and under pylons on the ice, finishing with a shot on the open net. Team Dempsey won this event, but it was a close race thanks to the speed of Riveters’ players Kate Leary and Kendall Cornine who participated.
The most fun event of the night was the Dunkin’ Team Shootout. With brand new Dunkin’ branded nets, every player participated in this event, including Brooke Stacey of the Beauts who announced earlier in the week that this would be her final moments of the 2019-20 season, as she is expecting her first child. Because of this, she did not participate in the All-Star Game and instead selected her former University of Maine teammate, and Riveter forward, Cailey Hutchison to play for Team Packer in Sunday’s game.
Most players treated this as a purely fun event. Madison Packer, who famously married former rival on the Whale, Anya Battaglino, ripped off her All-Star jersey to reveal a Whale Battaglino jersey for her shot. Sam Walther, Riveters’ goalie, had a successful goalie goal after a round of rock, paper, scissors against Beauts’ forward, Taylor Accursi.
All eyes were on Christina Putigna and Kaleigh Fratkin of the Pride, though they teamed up for a shot wearing Paul Mara and Heath Gordon masks. Mara, former Bruin, is the head coach of the Pride and was serving alongside Gordon as honorary coaches for the evening. Together, the Pride players teamed up to recreate the infamous Ovechkin shot from 2006 where Ovi effectively owned Mara.
Continuing the fun from the night prior, Sunday began with an open skate for fans to play with the All-Stars. This led to Tik Tok making contests and an on-ice conga line before the game actually started.
As they do in most games, Packer and Leary teamed up for the first goal of the first 25-minute half just five minutes in. Then it was a rush of Whitecaps’ goals from Jonna Curtis and Nicole Schammel on their own usual goalie Amanda Leveille that gave Team Dempsey a 2-1 lead.
The Riveters’ Dosdall-Arena scored the game-winning goal for Team Dempsey to round out the first half. Walther, who is still nursing an injury she sustained in the final game before the All-Star break, did not switch out for the second period, however, Fujimagari did for Team Dempsey. Amanda Boulier, another Whitecap, was able to close the gap in the score just a bit with a goal on her but it would ultimately be the last one for Team Packer.
The final score was 5-2, with two remaining goals for Team Dempsey from Dempsey on a power play herself and then a late empty netter by Pride rookie, Lexie Laing.
And yes, you did read that correctly. There was a power play goal in the All-Star Game. After an auction for fans to watch the game from the penalty box, it wouldn’t be the NWHL unless they sent players to actually sit with them for two minutes. Both Boulier and Thunstrom spent some time in the box during the game, while Fratkin sat during the Skills Competition. While the penalties were unclear, it was probably for having too much fun.
The Riveters have five games remaining this season, four of which are against the Buffalo Beauts. They will first host the Beauts in Monmouth on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, Feb. 16 at 4:30 pm. These games, as well as their final series against Buffalo, will be huge, as both teams sit at third and fourth place in the league with just a five-point difference in the standings.
Whichever team ends up in fourth place, will likely participate in a play-in game against the Connecticut Whale. Considering the Riveters have lost to the Whale this season, that isn’t a spot they would like to end up. If the Riveters can hold their third-place spot, they would also avoid the bracket-style playoff match against the first place Pride and could easily find their way to a championship game.
The Riveters’ next home game will also be Hockey Fights Cancer night, where they will honor defender Nichelle Simon who was initially sidelined from joining the NWHL because of a battle with cancer.
Also, the NWHL has one more special game to be played this season. In partnership with the AHL, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers are hosting a Connecticut Doubleheader on Feb. 22, featuring their game against the Hershey Bears, following the Connecticut Whale taking on the Boston Pride, as well as a meet and greet with the teams.
All of the remaining games will be streamed on the NWHL Twitch account as always.