The fourth iteration of the NWHL All-Star Game took place in Nashville on February 9 and 10. Saturday’s skills competition was before a sellout crowd at Ford Ice Center, and Sunday’s game took place at Bridgestone Arena in front of 6,120 fans - a record for a professional women’s hockey game in the United States. Those who attended that morning’s game between the Predators and the St. Louis Blues were invited to stay for what was an incredible matchup between four of the world’s best goaltenders and all of the speed and skill that the best of the NWHL had to offer.
The eight players representing the Buffalo Beauts left their mark in both occasions. The skills competition consisted of six events, and Team Szabados won 4-3, after the captain stopped two straight breakaway shots from her counterpart Lee Stecklein in the tiebreaker. Also taking victory in the individual events were Dani Cameranesi, who finished the accuracy challenge in just over 12 seconds, Blake Bolden’s 80mph slapper to defend her crown as hardest shot, and Nicole Hensley, who beat Beauts teammate Szabados in the fastest goalie competition. Team Szabados also won the trick shot challenge by fan vote.
The game itself was equally intense, decided in a shootout. Viewership approached nearly 500,000 viewers throughout the stream. Metropolitan Riveters rookie sensation Audra Richards scored first, and fellow Team Szabados forward Katarina Mràzovà gave Team Szabados the 2-0 lead after the first half. Hensley started for Team Stecklein, and allowed the two goals while Szabados shut out the Stecklein skaters.
Beauts defender Lisa Chesson opened the scoring for Team Stecklein, and the Connecticut Whale’s Emily Fluke tied the game at two.
The shootout lasted three rounds, and Team Szabados won the game on an Amanda Kessel goal. Szabados was named the game’s MVP.
It was a busy week for the Beauts that travelled to Nashville. Szabados spent some time with Predators broadcaster and honorary coach Chris Mason during the intermission of a weeknight game.
Blake Bolden sat on a panel with the Play Like a Girl Summit. The Nashville-based organization works with international stars to promote equality in sports and highlight their accomplishments. The summit gave girls an opportunity to speak with these pioneering women.
.@NWHL @AGagliardi92 @SDoyle_6 @SportBlake @LeeSteck2 THANK YOU for an empowering, high-energy weekend celebrating girls and women in sport! We look forward to continuing our work to get more Nashville girls in the game of hockey!! #NGWSD #IPLAYLIKEAGIRL #PLAGSummit pic.twitter.com/QZj5zRRuSg— Play Like a Girl! (@iplaylikeagirl) February 10, 2019
It was a long and impactful week for the players, and the league, and representatives of the Beauts were front and center for the important events that took place. As the league continues to gain a foothold in the hockey world, it is incredible to see the support continue to pour in from such dedicated markets.