Before a sold-out crowd at TRIA Rink, the brand-new training facility of the Minnesota Wild in Saint Paul, the NWHL All-Star Game conducted a dazzling showcase of women’s professional hockey from start to finish. Behind three goals and an assist from Hayley Scamurra of the Buffalo Beauts, Team Ott defeated Team Leveille, 8-6.
While every player on the ice proved why they were all-stars, it was fitting that a pair of the league’s greatest young stars shone the brightest. The co-MVPs of the contest were Scamurra, who played like she had the puck on a string, and Metropolitan Riveters defender Kelsey Koelzer, who scored four goals for Team Leveille. You don’t have to be an experienced hockey scout to see the sky is the limit – including possible consideration for the U.S. National Team down the road – for Scamurra and Koelzer.
Team Ott also received two goals each from Alexa Gruschow of the Riveters and Edina, Minnesota’s own Corinne Buie of the Beauts, while Jordan Smelker of the Pride and Amanda Boulier of the Whale had a goal and assist apiece.
“It was an exciting game with great pace, lots of actions and few whistles, and everyone was on top of their game,” said Scamurra. “For an all-star game, it was extremely competitive out there. We have friends on both sides, but both teams were pushing really hard for the win.”
Kristin Lewicki of the Beauts opened the scoring for Team Leveille before the goals started coming in bunches late in the first of two 25-minute periods. Team Lev was also led by Kelly Babstock of the Whale (goal, 3 assists), Buffalo’s Lisa Chesson (3 assists), and Lexi Bender of the Pride and Rebecca Russo of the Riveters, who each had two assists. Sadie Lundquist of the Minnesota Whitecaps pitched in with an assist.
“This was an amazing opportunity to take our all-star game out-of-market and show an incredible hockey market like Minnesota what the NWHL is all about,” said Russo. “This game had a little bit of everything, and it sounded from the fans like the fans had a great time.”
Team Ott out-shot Team Leveille, 41-28, and there were some acrobatic saves from all four of the game’s goaltenders: Ott, Leveille, Katie Fitzgerald and Sydney Rossman.
After the game, the All-Stars continued the NWHL tradition of being available for photos and autographs for every fan in attendance.
“I’ve got to say, I looked around at the crowd today during the second half and it was packed, and that was really heartwarming,” said goaltender and all-star captain Brittany Ott. “To see people buying our apparel or in jerseys with our names on them, has just blown me away. This has been an incredible year for the league, and we are genuinely appreciative of everyone who supports us.”
WCHA Commissioner Katie Million, who was in attendance and was a halftime guest on the Twitter Game of the Week broadcast, pointed out what a great weekend it was for women’s hockey with the Wild, NWHL and Minnesota Whitecaps working together to advance the game.
“For any fan or advocate of women’s hockey,” said Million, “this was something special.”
In a Season 3 for the NWHL that has seen the acquisition of the Beauts by Pegula Sports and Entertainment, a major strategic alliance between the Riveters and New Jersey Devils, a two-game series against the U.S. Olympic Team and broadcast deal with Twitter, this weekend was another massive step forward. The Minnesota Wild were generous with their time and resources. The State of Hockey warmly embraced a visit from the NWHL, and the feeling was mutual.
“The future is limitless for the NWHL and women’s hockey,” said NWHL Deputy Commissioner Hayley Moore. “This weekend, with everything that took place in Saint Paul, is just the latest proof of that.”