Five Things to Look for at the 2020 NWHL All-Star Game
By Mike Murphy
The 2020 NWHL All-Star Game begins this Sunday in Boston at 2:30 p.m. ET.
The format of the game itself promises a thrilling afternoon of hockey featuring the league’s brightest stars. Team Dempsey (wearing white) and Team Packer (wearing black) will face off for two 25-minute periods of thrilling four-on-four hockey. That’s a lot of open ice for some very talented players.
Fans can watch the 2020 NWHL All-Star Game streaming live and free on Twitch and Saturday’s All-Star Skills Challenge, which begins at 8 p.m. ET, at twitch.tv/nwhl.
Beauts’ All-Star rookie forward Brooke Stacey will step on and off the ice for the last time this season as a member of Team Packer. On Tuesday, Stacey announced that she and her partner are expecting their first child. She will be introduced with the Team Packer All-Stars before tagging in her best friend Cailey Hutchison of the Metropolitan Riveters to fill her spot in the lineup.
Stacey has put together one of the most impressive rookie seasons in Beauts’ franchise history this year. She scored eight goals and earned eight assists – five of which were primary – in 14 games before the All-Star break.
Goals, Goals, Goals
Last year’s NWHL All-Star Game in Nashville, TN was a low-scoring affair compared to the first three All-Star games in Buffalo, Pittsburgh and St. Paul. The record for goals scored in an NWHL All-Star Game is 16, set in 2017 in Pittsburgh.
Given what we’ve seen from this year’s back-and-forth race between Allie Thunstrom (Team Dempsey), McKenna Brand (Team Dempsey) and Taylor Accursi (Team Packer) for the goal-scoring title, we should expect plenty of fireworks. In fact, 11 of the 12 skaters who have scored 10 or more goals this season will be on the ice – including Dempsey and Packer who are first and second, respectively, in career goals.
In other words: get ready for scoring chances and rushes and a lot of them.
One of the best things about the NWHL All-Star Weekend is that it provides a unique opportunity for some teammates and even linemates to compete against each other. However, the league’s two most productive duos remain paired together on Team Dempsey and Team Packer.
Dempsey and McKenna Brand have had undeniable chemistry all season long. Dempsey leads the Pride and the league in assists this year (21) and has been feeding Brand the puck since the first day of the season. The NWHL’s all-time leading scorer has assists on 11 of Brand’s 17 goals this year, nine of which have been primary. They are practically automatic on two-on-one opportunities, so buckle up.
The chemistry between Packer and Kate Leary has been just as impressive. Packer has picked up helpers on nine of Leary’s 12 goals – seven of which have been primary – and Leary has seven assists on Packer’s 12 goals. They have earned points together on 17 of the Riveters’ 54 goals this season. That means that they have connected on scoring events 17 times in 18 games together this season. You probably know of a clock or two that is less reliable than that.
Big Game Players
The 2019-20 regular season has already been filled with unforgettable moments and classic performances from some of the league’s brightest stars.
Who can forget Allie Thunstrom breaking the Boston Pride’s winning streak by scoring a game-winning goal just eight seconds after Boston tied the game on Jan. 25? Or Taylor Accursi’s four-goal third period in the Labatt Blue NWHL Buffalo Believes Classic? Or Sam Walther’s 60-save performance against the Minnesota Whitecaps on Jan. 5?
There will be a lot of smiles on the ice and on the benches during the All-Star Game, but every player wants to come away with a win. Team Dempsey and Team Packer both have a bevy of proven big-game performers who always seem to play their best when all the chips are on the table. The only question now is who among them will thrill us on Sunday and be named the MVP of the 2020 NWHL All-Star Game?
The New Kids
Over the years the NWHL All-Star Weekend – and the All-Star Game in particular – has served as a spotlight for the league’s rookies and newcomers. The NWHL’s 2019-20 rookie class has been piling up records and transforming the landscape of the league, so it’s no surprise that they are expected to be some of the most captivating players on the ice.
Team Dempsey features high-scoring rookies Lexie Laing, Nicole Schammel, Marie-Jo Pelletier, and Emma Vlasic. Of course, Dempsey’s squad is also headlined by star rookie netminder Lovisa Selander who set a record for the most consecutive wins by a goalie in NWHL history and is already the league’s winningest European-born goalie.
Team Packer’s lineup is also studded with star newcomers. Rookie leading scorer Christina Putigna (27), Kendall Cornine, Lenka Curmova, and Cailey Hutchison are all primed to make big impressions in their first professional All-Star game.
Photo Credit: Kate Frese, Mike Hetzel, Michelle Jay