Late Sunday morning the NWHL All-Star game between Team Ott and Team Leveille occurred at St. Paul’s new TRIA rink. The game consisted of 4-on-4 play for two 25 minute halves with the goalies changing after the intermission. To start things off the captains, Amanda Leveille and Brittany Ott, were in goal for their respective teams and everyone on the ice seemed ready to show the crowd some fun hockey.
From the start Team Ott seemed to have more chances as they peppered Leveille in goal and ultimately outshot Team Leveille 23-15 in the first half. Alexa Gruschow hit the ice to connect on a pass and prevent icing, and on a later play dived to try and knock the puck home, but Leveille denied her the goal. Rebecca Russo had a nice left side shot that Ott blocked. Then Corinne Buie’s shot went straight into Leveille’s central mass. Kristin Lewicki flew up the left side and shot while Ott was down for the block, but couldn’t stop the goal. Lisa Chesson and Kelly Babstock assisted on the 10:02 goal.
Alyssa Gagliardi had a nice chance, but hit Leveille’s logo before Emily Field almost scored from behind the right circle. Then Minnesota Whitecap Sadie Lundquist nearly scored on the doorstep, but Leveille was yet again too fast. Her brick wall form was finally broken when Leveille was butterflied for the shot when Gruschow tossed the puck into goal over her from the right side at 16:01. Gagliardi had the lone assist. Babstock made a shot from the right side and scored when Ott fell instead of blocking the shot, putting Team Leveille back in the lead at 19:38. Chesson assisted.
Team Ott went into a frenzy that left Leveille lying on the ice and half out of her crease, which was when Buie knocked the puck into an open goal from the left side, retying the game at 20:06. Gruschow and Amanda Boulier assisted. Jordyn Burns made a left point shot that hit Ott’s pads and ricocheted right back to her at the blue line, so she took another shot, which Ott blocked again. Team Ott finally pulled ahead at 21:56 when Hayley Scamurra, assisted by Jordan Smelker and Courtney Burke, scored. Leveille had another nice pair of saves when she had to stand completely and then drop low for the blocks before lying her stick on the ice to stop the final shot of the half.
For the second half Katie Fitzgerald and Sydney Rossman were in goal for Team Leveille and Ott respectively. Scamurra drove close in on the right side and scored at 1:59. Jenny Ryan and Burke assisted. Then Buie flew down the left side and tapped the puck past Fitzgerald, scoring unassisted at 3:37. Less than a minute later Smelker netted one for Team Ott at 4:34. Lundquist had the lone assist.
Rossman stopped the puck, which was still in her crease, when Kelsey Koelzer dived in and drove the puck through the goaltender’s legs into goal, scoring at 5:50. Babstock and Lewicki assisted. Koelzer scored again, this time assisted by Russo and Chesson, by firing from the slot into the top right pocket at 7:23. Then Lundquist went for checking Lewicki at 7:39. On the power play Team Ott kept the puck out of their zone for the most part, though Rossman had to make a few deflections just before the penalty expired. Rebecca Vint nearly scored and then had a second great chance with a right point shot that Rossman stopped by standing.
At 14:51 Boulier scored on Fitzgerald from the right side with an assist from Michelle Picard. Then Lundquist tried to toss the puck into goal from the slot, but hit the goalie instead. Team Leveille had a flurry that ended when Koelzer banged it home from behind the right circle, finishing her hat trick at 17:10. Rosso and Bender assisted. Picard went to the box at 20:42 for checking along Team Leveille’s backboards. On the resulting power play, Babstock gave it to Bender and she sent it on to Koelzer, who fired from the left point into the top right corner of the goal, netting her fourth of the game at 21:56 and putting the score within one.
When the puck was loose underneath Rossman in the crease it really looked like it would be a tie game, as any Team Leveille could have swooped in and tapped it in, if she didn’t accidentally kick it in herself. However, Rossman did locate the puck and properly cleared it. Eventually Smelker got the puck and fed it to Scamurra whereupon she finished her hat trick at 23:15. While there had been a lot of cheering at Koelzer’s third and fourth goals, Ott actually threw her hat on the ice for Scamurra’s hatty. With 1:01 left on the clock a timeout was called and then just after that Fitzgerald was pulled, but neither made a difference for Team Leveille. Team Ott won 8-6 after outshooting 41 to 27.
All in all it was a fun game to watch with the snazziest All-Star jerseys to date. It was great to have the NWHL back in St. Paul, even if it was just for the weekend. The best part might have been the fact they involved the Minnesota Whitecaps along with a partnership with the Minnesota Wild for the festivities. Hope to see the league back in town in the near future because it’s always fun to have professional women’s hockey on display.