The Russian Женская хоккейная лига (ЖХЛ, or ZhHL) held its annual All-Star game on Sunday, Jan. 13, at Neftekhim Arena in Nizhnekamsk.
A healthy crowd of 4,873 in a city with no team in the league (the nearest team being almost five hours away in Ufa) were treated to an enjoyable game featuring Russia’s best and brightest.
When all was said and done, the West, featuring players from SK Gorny, Tornado Moscow Oblast, and Dinamo St. Petersburg, eked out a 4-2 win over the East, which featured players from league-leaders Agidel Ufa along with Biryusa Krasnoyarsk, SKIF Nizhny Novgorod, and SK Sverdlovsk Oblast.
Before the game was a skills competition, which featured lots of fun for everyone. The highlight had to be Anna Shokhina, the league’s top scorer, putting on her impression of a biathlete:
She wasn’t the only one to make some noise during the skills competition, as Alena Mills set a league record for hardest shot, ripping a 127.04 kph (around 79 mph) shot while wearing an Alaska flag as a cape:
Speaking of noise, the crowd was very into the game itself, clocking in as loud as 115 decibels, according to the league’s release.
On the ice, the East opened the scoring five minutes into the game, with Agidel’s Elizabeta Rodnova cleaning up a rebound and beating Nadezhda Morozova for a 1-0 lead.
The West would pull even midway through the second. SK Gorny’s Tatiana Rafter scored on an absolutely vicious toedrag wrister that pretty much embarrassed a backchecking Olga Sosina:
That’s just nasty.
Three minutes later, her Gorny teammate Hayley Williams joined in the fun, knocking home a rebound from a Fanuza Kadirova shot to give the West a lead they would not relinquish.
Less than a minute later, Kadirova joined her teammates in the scorer’s column, as she tapped in a pass from Dinamo’s Diana Kanayeva to extend the lead to 3-1.
The East wasn’t going to go away, though, and about two minutes later, Sosina made up for her wipeout on Rafter’s goal with a goal of her own, receiving a pass from Agidel teammate Elina Mitrofanova and roofing a beautiful backhander past Nadezhda Alexandrova to cut the lead in half.
That would be as close as the East would get, though, as Alvetina Shtaryova iced the game with an empty-netter in the third.
This year’s game wasn’t the typical football scoreline you sometimes see from All-Star hockey games. This was a great, close hockey game featuring some of the finest players honing their craft in Russia and featuring highlight-reel plays and fun.
Here’s the full highlights, courtesy of the league’s YouTube channel.