In the most exciting NWHL Skills Challenge yet, Team Leveille edged Team Ott 4-3 after a skate-off between the two captains was needed to determine the winner.
But in truth, everyone won on Saturday night as the best of the NWHL displayed their skills before a near-capacity crowd on the official opening day of TRIA Rink – the magnificent training facility of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.
“This entire day was fantastic – first with the morning skate with the young players and again tonight with the Skills event,” said captain Amanda Leveille, star goaltender for the Buffalo Beauts and a four-year player for the University of Minnesota. “Everything has been so well-run and the fans of Minnesota have really embraced us. The Skills Challenge tonight was a lot of fun and the fans have been really supportive. I think the whole day was a huge success.”
Among the individual bests, Buffalo rookie Kristin “Wheels” Lewicki won the Faster Skater competition for Team Lev, with a time of 13.41. Riveters defender Kelsey Koelzer was the champion in the Hardest Shot competition, presented by GoodWood Hockey, with a speed of 81 mph. Buffalo captain Corinne Buie was the victor in the Dunkin’ Donuts Shooting Accuracy event, smashing all four targets in 12.6 seconds.
“What a great night this has been,” said Buie, from nearby Edina. “The Skills Challenge is a great showcase of all of the talent in our league, and most of all it’s a lot of fun for the players and the fans. The whole event tonight was really first-class.”
While Team Leveille won the Fastest Goalie challenge, Team Ott won the Howie’s Hockey Tape Breakaway contest – points all for creativity (check social media for the highlight) – and Shootout Challenge, presented by New Era Cap.
It came down to a skate-off between Captains Ott and Leveille. While Ott’s team tried to slow heir “rival” down by throwing their gloves at her from the bench, Leveille won to break the tie for her team.
When it was all over, the players from both teams joined in a group photograph at center ice while the fans roared. It was an unforgettable Day One of NWHL All-Star Weekend, and the Midseason Classic is still to come on Sunday at 11:30 am CT.
“Our league continues to make great strides, and bringing All-Star Weekend to Minnesota with a partnership from the Wild is the latest example,” said All-Star Jillian Dempsey, captain of the Boston Pride. “I’m proud to be part of this league and to be among the players not just on the Pride, but the entire NWHL.”