Four members of the PWHPA took to the ice this week and stunned crowds at the 2020 ECHL All-Star Classic. 2019 NCAA National Champion and Team USA member Annie Pankowski was joined by 2018 Olympic gold medalists Gigi Marvin, Dani Cameranesi, and Kali Flanagan in Wichita, Kansas, where they competed — and flourished — alongside the ECHL’s best and brightest in both the skills competitions and the 3-on-3 tournament.
The ECHL All-Star Classic featured a set of skills competitions highlighted by the fastest skater, hardest shot, and shooting accuracy tests, all of which you’re likely familiar with from the NWHL All-Star Weekend. Similar to their performance at last year’s NHL All-Star Weekend, the PWHPA players demonstrated the skills before the ECHL players competed in the competitions.
Dani Cameranesi and Kali Flanagan demonstrated the fastest skater competition, with both clocking in between 12 and 14 seconds. Though the ECHL didn’t release the times for Cameranesi and Flanagan since they were technically just showcasing the skill, both kept up with the ECHL All-Stars in terms of time.
The hardest shot competition was the only one not demonstrated by any PWHPA players.
The third skills competition was accuracy shooting. Gigi Marvin and Annie Pankowski demonstrated the competition, and while every participant was absolutely smoked by one ECHL player (who set a record with a jaw-dropping 2.369 second finish), Marvin and Pankowski actually finished in the top three. According to Joanne on Twitter, Marvin finished the challenge in 11.38 seconds and Pankowski in 11.54 seconds, with the pair placing second and third, respectively.
11.38 seconds for Gigi Marvin in the accuracy shooting! pic.twitter.com/dIQvnpIqLB— Taylor Haase (@TaylorHaasePGH) January 23, 2020
The tournament play at the All-Star Classic was played in a pretty conventional format, with a round-robin featuring every team playing a seven minute game, running clock game against one of the other teams. The most intriguing thing about the tournament was that the goals scored in earlier games would count towards a team’s score in later games (e.g. if one team won by 3-2 in the first game, they would start the next game with 3 goals on the scoreboard), so teams wanted to maximize the number of goals scored in each game to give themselves an advantage later on.
The first game featured Gigi Marvin’s Team West vs. Annie Pankowski’s Team Bolts (a team otherwise comprised entirely of host players from the Wichita Thunder). Gigi Marvin tallied the very first point by a female player in any ECHL All-Star Classic when she notched an assist on a goal for Team West by teammate Taylor Richart, while Annie Pankowski didn’t see much ice time and was kept off the scoresheet.
Another PWHPA player would tally an assist in the very next game, a match-up between Kali Flanagan’s Team East and Dani Cameranesi’s Team Hammers (another team otherwise comprised entirely of host players from the Thunder). Flanagan was credited with an assist on Brendan Warren’s game-winning goal.
Pankowski’s Bolts squared off against Flanagan’s Team East in the next tilt, and Pankowski was looking to get a point in this one. In true Pankowski fashion, she scored thirty-seven seconds into the game, a feat that earned her the award of being the first woman to ever score a goal in the ECHL All-Star Classic.
Cameranesi had a multi-point game in the next game between her Hammers and Marvin’s Team West. She assisted on the tally by Stefan Fournier, and went on to score an insurance goal of her own to make the score 4-1 in favor of the Hammers.
Not to be outdone, Marvin also scored a goal of her own — her first of the night, and the game-winner — in a match-up between Teams East and West. She was assisted by linemate Taylor Richart, whose goal Marvin assisted on in an earlier match-up.
In the championship game at the All-Star Classic between Flanagan’s Team East and Marvin’s Team West, Flanagan would score the most interesting and perhaps the most controversial goal of the night, an all-but-empty netter after the puck went into the corner and Team West’s goalie went to chase after it. Instead of hitting the boards, the referee in the way kicked the puck in Flanagan’s direction and she shot it home for the game-winner.
Kali Flanagan with an assist from the official, haha. This ended up being the game-winner. pic.twitter.com/gAQWLKxN7H— Taylor Haase (@TaylorHaasePGH) January 23, 2020
By the end of the tournament, each PWHPA player had a handful of points to her name, and each went home with a goal. If nothing else, hosting professional women’s hockey players and allowing them to compete alongside male players at the 2020 ECHL All-Star Classic exposed many people watching in person and online to the women’s game.
The next PWHPA event will be the Dream Gap Tour stop in Philadelphia from Feb. 29 - March 1.