Welcome back to - a special edition of - Around the Rink!
Thank you to all of the players/staff of the six teams for all of your openness, your time, and especially your assists when I piece these columns together. Also, a special thanks to everyone who reads these, shares them, comments about them. I, and we appreciate it.
And here, we, go!
1* Covid reared its ugly head again this weekend, preventing two Buffalo Beauts - forward Autumn MacDougall and defender Marie-Jo Pelletier from participating in the PHF’s All-Star weekend, in their home rink. What a bummer for the two players, who we definitely missed.
1.1* We also missed a really cool reunion between MacDougall and Hockey Canada/CWHL legend Sami Jo Small, who was one of the three honorary coaches for the All-Stars. Perhaps we can see that happen in the near future!
Pretty cool to find these from 2006, @SamiJoSmall has always been one of my idols and now I get to be coached by her at the @PHF allstar game this weekend! #reachforthestars pic.twitter.com/DP6QrZ8kxc— Autumn MacDougall (@Auttiemac) January 27, 2022
2* It was really awesome to hear some of Small’s thoughts after all of the games were over, and I thought it was important to include them in our abbreviated column this week. She was poignant and elaborate in her comments, and quite witty, too! When I asked what the hardest thing she had to do all weekend as the leader of a group of All-Stars, Small quipped, “I crossed the border I guess? Haha! Maybe the PCR test? All of the things that these players deal with on a weekly basis.”
Her response when asked by the PHF to be a coach for the event?
“To be honest it was a real honor,” Small told us. “it was humbling. It did take me a little bit of time to make the decision. I had just covered the PWPHA game for Sportsnet and I felt like if I was supporting that side of the ‘fence’ that I wanted to support these players as well.”
“The PHF is doing some amazing things. It’s not about taking sides or solving the world’s problems, it’s about enjoying the game and being out there with these players who are doing so much for advancing women’s hockey and I just wanted to be a part of that,” added Small. “It was really special for me to be around them this weekend.”
3* Metropolitan Riveters captain Madison Packer made her record fifth All-Star Game appearance and I really loved her perspective on what the players get out of the weekend - whether it’s on or off the ice. “You get to know people a little bit better; people learn that I’m not the same person on the ice that I am off the ice - which is fun,” said the face of the Rivs franchise.
“I’ve gotten to know a couple of the Toronto kids on my team pretty well this weekend. It’s fun, obviously competitive - you always want to win but it’s more about celebrating people's successes to this point. It’s fun to play with the best of the best, it’s fun making plays with players who push you to be better.”
As for the magenta hair she was sporting, was that planned to match the All-Star jerseys that looked like they came out of the early 1990s? “My hair color wasn’t planned to match the jersey per se, but I did dye my hair for the Allstar weekend,” revealed no. 14. “It was supposed to be more of a rose-gold, but we had a cosmetic blunder when I went to get it done. It came out like Oompa Loompa orange so my hairdresser said we’ll go to magenta and it will fade….three weeks later it's still fading.”
4* For the second consecutive All-Star Game Team Dempsey came away with the victory. Always a great ambassador for not only the Boston Pride but also the PHF, team captain Jillian Dempsey was able to perfectly summarize what these weekends mean to the players that are selected to represent the league.
“It’s just another opportunity to play hockey,” said the PHF’s all-time leader in points. “Whenever you come to these events, it’s the best in the league and you get to go head-to-head and compete with them. In the end, it’s just another opportunity to play the game that we love.”
“You just try to go out there, have fun, work hard and form some friendships with players on other teams,” added Dempsey. “It’s nice to take a break from the usual and enjoy this - we were able to get the win and that always makes it more fun.”
5* Minnesota star and All-Star captain Allie Thunstrom echoed the comments of both Packer and Dempsey when asked about her favorite parts of the event. “Similar to what Packer said, it’s really cool to get to know players across the league - and we’re in a unique situation being in Minnesota where the other teams, especially the Riveters, Connecticut, Boston - a lot of them live close to one another and can train in the summer together whereas we’re off by ourselves (in the midwest) and don’t get to have that interaction with other teams.”
“So it’s cool to see them, get to know them, and a lot of that isn’t about the game or our teams,” explained Thunstrom. “It’s about how was college, why’d you decide to go where you went, things like that. It’s really awesome to get to know people on that level off the ice.”
“I didn’t know Christina Putigna or Sammy Davis very well before this weekend, and they are just awesome people, same for Taylor Davison from the Six. (Connecticut’s) Abbie Ives and Taylor Girard…I really enjoyed everybody on our team.”
6* After what we’ve seen in the PHF to this point, it should have been no surprise that Toronto Six netminder Elaine Chuli was named MVP, backstopping Team Dempsey to the triumph. “She did exactly what I wanted her to do (when I drafted her),” said Dempsey while laughing. “We really leaned on her and she made some big saves in the end. She came up huge with those saves in the shootout, as well as saves in the game. She was excellent.”
After surrendering back-to-back goals to her Toronto teammate Mikyla Grant-Mentis in the middle game of the mini-tournament, Chuli shut the door on everyone else - aside from Amanda Boulier’s clap bomb in the shootout of the final game.
“Mikyla’s been trash-talking all week. Maybe even two weeks, so that first game was a little rough. I think she put two in and I said alright, that’s enough,” Chuli said. “It’s all fun. We have a great relationship.”
For the second straight All-Star Game, a goaltender was named MVP. In 2020 Boston goalie Lovisa Selander won MVP.
6.1* Kudos to the PHF, the Buffalo Beauts organization, GM Nate Oliver, and the city of Buffalo for putting on a great event on such short notice after having to relocate it from Toronto. We know it wasn't an easy task to pull it all off, but you did it, and despite some minor hiccups (travel delays and covid) it was a successful day that we enjoyed.
7* The roster for Team USA’s Women’s National Team has been announced that will compete for the Ball Hockey Championship later this year (June 17-25 in Quebec). Included on the roster (and staff) are some names that NWHL and PHF fans know very well. Former Riveter Amber Moore will be one of the assistant coaches.
Two-thirds of their goaltenders are current Riveters - Sonjia Shelly and Brooke Woljeko. Current Beauts defender Elena Orlando is among the seven defenders named to the team. Season 1 Riveter Cherie Stewart will be part of the forward group, as will current Riveters Colleen Murphy and Haley Frade. Also included are former Whale forwards Sarah Hughson and Sophia Agostinelli.
You can see the full roster in the tweet below. Best of luck to all of the players! Here’s hoping you come home with a gold medal.
Proud to announce the roster for the 2022 U.S. Women's National Team that will compete at the World Championships this year representing the country in Quebec, Canada.— USA Ball Hockey (@USABallHockey) January 31, 2022
Please consider helping them on their road to gold by using the link below:https://t.co/4u73Y7pBLP pic.twitter.com/LqLa8hhHWt
8* Obviously it was big news on Friday night when the PHF players decided after 25 days to part ways with Alex Sinatra, who was elected as their Executive Director of the Players Association back on Jan. 3. We don’t have much to add to our report other than something must have changed with the timing of it all.
When we first found out on Thursday evening what was happening the belief was that both sides agreed to delay the announcement until the Monday after the All-Star Showcase. But 24 hours after receiving the information we were told the announcement was happening at 7 pm. No word on what that was, but our best guess is they didn’t think the news would have been kept quiet for that long.
Quote of the Week
“During the banquet today I said to the girls: sometimes it's just luck of the draw, but any one of these players here today - given different circumstances - could have been on the ice in Beijing (for the 2022 Winter Olympics). That’s how close the talent level is in women’s hockey, that's how good these players are. I really think and truly believe these girls are right there and the future, I’m very optimistic.”
“I think this is a very exciting time to be in women’s sports in general; it’s only going to take off from here. I told the team in the locker room before the game - everybody made it here, but this is really just the beginning. We can all make some huge strides together and I think that this weekend really proved that these girls are not only really great hockey players, but just great ambassadors for the game.” — Sami Jo Small on the talent level in women’s hockey and the optimism we all should have.
My 3-Stars of the Weekend
* Elaine Chuli (T6) - the frontrunner for PHF MVP and Goaltender of the Year was the best player on the ice Saturday. After a slow start (for her) she shut the door on everyone. In the shootout, she stopped 9/10 of the best players in the game to earn that MVP honor.
** Jonna Curtis (MIN) - I thought Curtis was among the best, if not the best forward on the ice. Her speed and quickness are perfect in a defense-optional setting, and if there wasn’t such a gap in between their games, she very easily could’ve continued her assault on the goalies in the game.
IS THAT CARLY JACKSON'S MUSIC?! pic.twitter.com/z1hjYifG35— PHF (@PHF) January 30, 2022
*** Carly Jackson (BUF) - despite the PHF trying to suck all of the fun out of All-Star Weekend with no Skills Competition, the Beauts netminder voted to the game by the fans said - NOT IN MY HOUSE! Teammate Cassidy Vinkle gave up her spot in the shootout in Game 2 to CJ and yeah, she scored in said shootout while rocking Vinkle’s jersey, in goalie pads, while wearing sunglasses. Oh, and then she started Game 3 for Team Dempsey and stopped all three shots that she faced. Baller.