Among a group of four goaltenders to have participated in the first two CWHL All-Star Games, there was a feeling of redemption for Christina Kessler. Standing between the pipes for Team Red in the inaugural edition of the game, Kessler would allow the first All-Star Goal scored by an American-born player (Kelli Stack).
Returning to the second All-Star Game as a member of Team Black, Kessler played a period and a half of shutout hockey, making her the only goaltender at the Game to not allow a goal. As Kessler’s team enjoyed a 3-0 lead when she was replaced by Calgary Inferno backstop Delayne Brian, it helped set the tone for the remainder of the game, as Team White never rebounded, overwhelmed in a 5-1 final.
With her sterling performance, Kessler would also be credited with the win, becoming the first member of the Toronto Furies to earn an All-Star win. As a side note, Kessler was actually the second Furies goaltender to start in the All-Star Game. During the inaugural game, Sami Jo Small made the start for Team White.
“Going into such a big event with highly skilled players, it’s always a good feeling to come away with the win. I really enjoyed my experience with Team Black, led by Julie Chu. Our team chemistry was on par right from the get-go and I think that helped our on-ice performance.”
Opposing Kessler on the opposite end of the ice at Air Canada Centre was Charline Labonte. While they were both members of Team Red’s roster during the first Game, the two were part of an intriguing chapter in the All-Star Frozen Fantasy Draft. With team captains Julie Chu of Team Black and Natalie Spooner of Team White selecting their rosters, Chu surprised many when she opted for Kessler over Charline Labonte, who is her teammate with Les Canadiennes de Montreal. With the next pick, Spooner opted to select Labonte. As a side note, this element of the draft was actually mentioned during the live broadcast of the Game itself.
The one factor that may have been overlooked by some in this selection is the fact that Chu and Kessler had been teammates many seasons ago with the Harvard Crimson. Since both graduated from the program, they have never enjoyed the opportunity to play together another time. There is no question that the chance to be teammates again was testament to the mutual respect for each other, a chance to rekindle the magic that made the Crimson a perennial contender for the national championship.
“It was great being reunited with Chuey. I definitely had flashbacks to some HH memories. She is one of the best leaders and teammates I have had the chance to play with. Her energy and spirit are contagious, I think she did a great job – as always – leading our team and making sure that the All-Star game was a fun and memorable experience for everyone.”
As Kessler continued to frustrate the Team White skaters, she was graciously recognized by analyst Cassie Campbell during the game’s broadcast. Acknowledging her as one of the best goalies to have never played in a Winter Games event for Canada, it is testament to Kessler’s talents, which also includes a Clarkson Cup title. Long reputed as a workhorse goaltender, able to eat up minutes, her legend continues to grow with each passing season, as a showcase such as the All-Star Game allows fans to appreciate all the exceptional qualities that she extols.
“It’s always an honour to be selected to an event like this. The first all-star weekend was a great experience, the second was even better. It’s great to see our league grow in the capacity that it has over the last few years. I think an event like this is really important to showcase how talented the players are in the CWHL.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Jess Bazal