While the gathering of world class talent at the NWHL All-Star Game is definitely one of its hallmarks, the aspect of the event that helps to showcase the captivating abilities of these wondrous women is highlighted by the skills competition. Akin to the excitement generated by baseball’s Home Run Derby or basketball’s Slam Dunk Contest, the NWHL skills competition brings a remarkable combination of dramatic high-stakes thrill.
As the assembled All-Stars competing against each other on behalf of their respective teams, the player with the best result in each of the five different skill sets gives her team one point. Each point is crucial as it contributes towards the final score of the All-Star Game. With Team Kessel and Team Steadman having won two events in the skills competition, it was Boston Pride star blueliner Gigi Marvin, who would break the deadlock, winning in the Breakaway Challenge of said competition.
Of note, Riveters rookie Rebecca Russo would win the Fastest Skater Competition for Team Kessel, registering a scintillating speed of 12.75 seconds, gaining a new twitter handle in the process: #RocketRusso. The other member of Team Kessel that emerged victorious in the Skills Competition was Nicole Stock, winning the Fastest Goalie challenge in 17.44 seconds.
Pride teammate Blake Bolden won the hardest shot competition for Team Steadman, nearly hitting 90 mph on the radar. Team captain Kelley Steadman would help out her own cause, winning in the Accuracy Challenge.
With grace under pressure, Marvin was masterful as the only competitor who was 2-2 against Team Steadman’s goaltenders; Katie Fitzgerald and Brianne McLaughlin, who both played for Team USA at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games. After scoring on McLaughlin, whose hockey heroics at the NCAA level with the Robert Morris Colonials endeared her to Pittsburgh sports fans in the late 2000s, it was all laughs and smiles, as Marvin and McLaughlin hugged.
Along with fellow Pride teammates Kacey Bellamy, Blake Bolden, Brianna Decker, Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight and Brittany Ott, Marvin is part of a sensational sorority to have graced the ice for the first two NWHL All-Star Games. Among the four winners in the online vote competition, the chance to play in Pittsburgh was definitely a season highlight for Marvin,
“It was a blast competing in the first two NWHL All-Star Games. The atmosphere in Pittsburgh was electric with the loud fans and great signs/posters. I had so much fun competing in the Skills Competition and All-Star Game.”
Of all the fun elements of the All-Star Game is the fact that league rivalries dissolve for a weekend, creating a new dynamic, which results in the reunification of former college teammates, along with the heroes of Team USA. Getting the opportunity to reunite with Buffalo Beauts star blueliner Megan Bozek (having played together at Sochi 2014) as All-Star teammates was definitely enjoyable.
Another superstar from the US national team was also among Marvin’s teammates in Pittsburgh. Skating for the New York Riveters, Amanda Kessel is more than just one of the rookie sensations in the NWHL’s sophomore season. She shares a unique hockey heritage with Marvin in the fact that both are All-America selections that have skated with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Joined by fellow alum Bozek, Gophers pride was definitely on-hand during this memorable day, as Kessel became the first player to score a hat trick in NWHL All-Star history,
“Yes, I love playing with Amanda and (am) glad she picked me on her team! Not only does she have ridiculous skills but she always makes me laugh.”
The recipient of the inaugural NWHL Defensive Player of the Year Award, Marvin is currently the leading scorer among the Pride’s blueliners. Pacing the group in goals, assists and points, she also ranks first in shots on goal percentage with 12.5 %. In addition, she ranks fifth overall in team scoring, while she trails Alexandra Carpenter and Brianna Decker in assists, testament to her strong playmaking abilities.
Having logged at least one point in nine games this season, the Pride enjoy a sparkling 9-0 mark. Starting the season with assists in the first two games, Marvin would also assemble four multi-point performances. Her first would take place on November 20, netting a goal and an assist versus Buffalo.
Recording a pair of multi-point efforts against the last place Connecticut Whale, Marvin’s best performance against them took place on January 27. Registering three points, on the strength of two assists, Marvin made her mark in a convincing 8-4 win, propelling the Pride to a superlative league-best 11-0 start.
As the season wounds down with Marvin focused on contributing towards Boston capturing their second straight Isobel Cup, followed by an effort to help Team USA capture its fourth straight IIHF Women’s World championship, the 2016-17 season brought with it the exciting highlight of an historic All-Star Game. Providing an enjoyable opportunity to be part of a new chapter for women’s hockey history while connecting with a new group of fans, Marvin was jubilant with the results.
Gaining the opportunity to showcase her skills in the first professional women’s hockey game in the state of Pennsylvania, an exciting and empowering time that allowed fans in the Pittsburgh area to enjoy the amazing NWHL brand, it was another proud achievement that adds to Marvin’s growing hockey legacy. With the league considering several neutral site games for its third season in 2017-18, dignitaries such as Marvin make it a game worth watching,
“Yes, Pittsburgh was a great location for us to play in. The fans were really engaged throughout the weekend. It was a lot of fun being surrounded by such passionate fans.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”