As many of the hockey heroes from Sochi made their mark at the inaugural CWHL All-Star Game held in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, the biggest moment was reserved for Rebecca Johnston. Competing for Team Red, Johnston was a catalyst in helping the squad rebound from a 2-0 deficit after two periods to capture the inaugural game by a 3-2 tally.
Earning First Star of the Game honors, Johnston would score the game winning goal. Ironically, the goal came against Sochi teammate Genevieve Lacasse, who was standing between the pipes for Team White. The opportunity to accomplish such an historic feat was rewarding for Johnston.
“It was a great experience and I am glad I was able to take part in such a great event. I hope it will be the first of many CWHL All-Star games to come! I thought they did an excellent job for the first ever All-Star game. As far as I know everyone enjoyed themselves and we are looking forward to next year’s.”
One of the unique novelties of the CWHL All-Star Game was that the Team Red and Team White rosters were sprinkled with players from all existing franchises. Not only were many competitors skating alongside players that had been rivals for many seasons, they were suddenly facing off against teammates.
For Johnston, she found herself playing against her linemates from the Inferno, including Haley Irwin (who would win gold at Sochi as a teammate of Johnston) and rookie Brittany Esposito. This was compounded by Inferno goaltender DeLayne Brian occupying the Team White crease during the second stanza.
“It was definitely weird to be on the opposite bench, playing against girls I have been playing with all year. Irwin and I have played together for many years so it was great to finally be in another colour and bugging her on the ice. We all were joking around and chirping each other (laughs).”
In the aftermath of the historic game, Johnston found enjoyment in the chance to call longtime rivals her teammates for at least one day. Like so many other players that were part of the game, it represented a chance to not only celebrate the game with cherished fans, but to get to know other players from throughout the league on a much friendlier level was equally welcome.
“I think just getting to know players from the other teams and playing on the same team as some of them. Normally your use to playing against them and you only know them from on ice play. But getting to personally know a lot of them was awesome!
Everyone was so nice. I also enjoyed the fan support at the game. Having the ACC almost full was pretty special and a great stepping stone for women’s hockey. I think the All-Star Game has really helped to positively promote the women’s game.”
Of note, the All-Star Game was truly a special opportunity for fans to appreciate the greatness that is Johnston. While she has played alongside living legends such as Agosta, Hefford, Ouellette and Wickenheiser at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games and 2014 Sochi Winter Games, she is beginning to carve her own special legacy.
Heading into the All-Star break, Johnston was also the leading scorer in CWHL play. It marked the first time at the midway point of the season that a player from the Calgary Inferno led the league in scoring.
With the Inferno firmly in first place as of January 18, 2015, the 2014-15 season has truly been a coming-out party for a world class talent such as Johnston. Of note, a special event occurred for Johnston and teammate Jenna Cunningham on January 16, 2015.
In the third period of a home contest against the Toronto Furies (which the Inferno would win by a 6-3 mark), Johnston would score on Christina Kessler with 12:23 remaining. Assisted by Esposito and Jenna Cunningham, it would be one of the most notable goals scored all season.
Of note, the assist provided Jenna Cunningham with her 50th career point. Having played her entire career with the Team Alberta/Calgary franchise, Cunningham became the first skater to reach 50 career points, all of them with the franchise.
Although Johnston’s goal also represented the 50th point of her stellar career, she spent the 2012-13 campaign with the Toronto Furies. In addition, said goal was also Johnston’s 25th point this season.
With the goal, she would tie Danny Stone’s franchise record for most points in one season with 25. It would be part of a remarkable offensive output against the Furies, with Johnston recording four points in the win.
Such a strong start this season has established Johnston as an early favorite for league MVP honors. Although the ultimate goal is a Clarkson Cup championship, Johnston is looking to the remainder of the season with optimism,
“I am happy with the way I started and hopefully I can continue to play well throughout the year. Calgary has a really good team this year so playing along side some of the best players in the league has definitely been helping my play. I am very pleased with our team’s strong start as well.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Image obtained from Twitter, left to right: Jenna Cunningham, Jessica Wong and Johnston proudly wearing their Team Red All-Star Game jerseys.