Fastest Skater, Hardest Shot, and…Relay Race? An All-Star Skills Challenge Primer

by NWHL Media

By Mike Murphy

What better way to kick off the 2020 NWHL All-Star Weekend in Boston than with the Skills Challenge?

This year, 22 of the 32 All-Stars are experiencing their first All-Star weekend, which means we could have some big surprises in the Skills Challenge on Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET. Fans can watch the action live at Warrior Ice Arena by grabbing tickets at nwhl.zone/allstar or live on Twitch at twitch.tv/nwhl.

Three of the most highly anticipated events at the All-Star Skills Challenge are the fastest skater and hardest shot challenges, and a relay race. Here’s a preview of these three competitions.

CHIPWICH FASTEST SKATER

Six skaters – three from each team – will line up at center ice and blaze a lap around the rink to see which of them will be crowned the NWHL’s new queen of speed. The team that has the skater with the fastest overall time will win the event, earning one (1) point.

Competitors

Team Dempsey: Allie Thunstrom, Meghan Lorence, Jonna Curtis

Team Packer: Grace Klienbach, Christina Putigna, Lenka Čurmová

Mike’s Players to Watch

Did you really expect me to say anyone other than Allie Thunstrom?

There may be no one faster in the game when it comes to straight-line speed than Thunstrom. Her background in speed skating is evident whenever there is open ice between her and the opposing team’s goal. With that being said, don't count out speedsters Jonna Curtis and Grace Klienbach. They can both flat-out fly.

SLALOM HARDEST SHOT

The Hardest Shot event (presented by Slalom, a Boston-based consulting firm focused on strategy, technology and business transformation that is partnering with the NWHL on All-Star Weekend) is all about mechanics, technique, and strength. Team Packer and Team Dempsey will each have four shooters take two slap shots from the top of the hashmarks into an empty net so that a speedometer can determine who has the fastest shot. Whichever team registers the shot with the highest velocity will be awarded one (1) point and take the event.

Competitors

Team Dempsey: Kiira Dosdall-Arena, Lexi Bender, Rebecca Morse, Shannon Doyle

Team Packer: Audra Richards, Kaleigh Fratkin, Corinne Buie, Elena Orlando

Mike’s Players to Watch

We all know that Corinne Buie is an accurate shooter – she won the Shooting Accuracy event during the 2018 NWHL All-Star Weekend – but she also has an absolute cannon. There are few players in the game who can rival Buie in the strength department, so it will be interesting to see how she fares against a field that includes players who competed in this event just one year ago. Also, keep an eye on Kaleigh Fratkin, the NWHL's all-time leading scorer among defenders. She is known more for her accuracy than her power, but she can also absolutely rip it.

FRANKLIN RELAY RACE

The Franklin Relay Race event is new to this year’s All-Star Skill Challenge! In this event, four skaters from each team will navigate a series of obstacles that run the length of the ice before shooting the puck into the empty net and sprinting back to the goal line where they started.

The first set of obstacles are six cones that players will have to stickhandle their way through. The second set of obstacles, located at center ice, are six pylons that skaters will have to weave around while maintaining control of the puck in a test of their edgework. The third set of obstacles require the participants to duck under a low bridge and then hop over a short hurdle before firing the puck into the empty net and rushing back down the ice to tag in their teammate.

The first team to have all four skaters finish the race will win one (1) point and claim the event.

Competitors

Team Dempsey: Taylor Accursi, Emma Vlasic, Nicole Schammel, Marie-Jo Pelletier

Team Packer: Kate Leary, Kendall Cornine, Amanda Boulier, Hanna Beattie

Mike’s Players to Watch

My heart is already thumping just thinking about this one. More than any other event, the Relay Race will test each All-Star’s overall athleticism and focus. Look for newcomers to the league like Cornine, Nicole Schammel, Emma Vlasic, and Marie-Jo Pelletier to shine here. I like Pelletier for this event because she is a very underrated skater and definitely doesn't back down from competition.


Photo Credit: Michelle Jay