The embodiment of grace and professionalism, Ashley Johnston is an All-Star in all facets of the game. From her strong leadership as the captain of the New York Riveters to her kind demeanor, it was only fitting that Johnston was among the competitors that graced the ice in Pittsburgh for the second NWHL All-Star Game.
Considering that this was the first professional women’s ice hockey game contested in the Keystone State, it was more than just a proud milestone in Johnston’s career. Among the elements that make Johnston proud to suit up for the Riveters is the strong culture of friendship and encouragement that exists. The opportunity for Johnston to be part of this historic All-Star Game is a representation of those values,
“I was incredibly proud to represent the Rivs at the all-star game. As a player, I definitely would not have been able to compete there without the help of my teammates and coaching staff.
They all push me so hard every game, practice and lift me to be the best player I possibly can be. I also think that’s one of the best parts of being on this team: everyone supports each other and wants the person beside them to succeed both on and off the ice.”
Among the other members of the Riveters that joined Johnston included Katie Fitzgerald, Amanda Kessel and Rebecca Russo, all first time participants in the event, along with veteran leader Madison Packer and prized free agent acquisition Kaleigh Fratkin, who were each competitors in the inaugural NWHL All-Star Game. Among the highlights of Fratkin’s inaugural season with the Riveters was blocking a shot with her hand to preserve Katie Fitzgerald’s shutout, the first in franchise history.
Taking into account that both Johnston and Fratkin have displayed strong leadership skills at the collegiate and professional levels, it is no surprise that the two have instantly gelled as teammates during the 2016-17 campaign. Appearing in all 16 regular season games,
such rapport between the two also defined their All-Star experience as both were members of Team Steadman, named in honor of Kelley Steadman, who was the inaugural All-Star MVP.
“Fratty is my stall mate on the Rivs and was my stall mate at the ASG. It was awesome having a familiar face there the entire time, especially right before the game when nerves are going. She is always so calm and poised. I would not have wanted anyone else beside me!”
Compared to the inaugural edition of the All-Star Game, which saw Janine Weber and Nana Fujimoto become the first European and Asian players to participate, this year’s game only consisted of American and Canadian players. Of note, Johnston and Fratkin were among the proud Canadians (Johnston raised in Ontario while Fratkin hails from British Columbia) that added to the international legacy of the All-Star Game.
Adding to their sense of national pride between was the fact that they were joined by a pair of other Canadians in this year’s All-Star Game. Joining them as participants included the likes of Harrison Browne, whose All-Star nod adds to a personally groundbreaking season, plus Kelly Babstock, who is one of the league’s top scorers, skating with the Connecticut Whale. Browne would be the lone Canadian on Team Kessel while Babstock joined Fratkin and Johnston with Team Kessel.
As Babstock was raised in the Greater Toronto Area, Johnston had been familiar with her scoring efficiency and style of play, as both had played for opposing team’s in Ontario’s prestigious PWHL. As the two have now elevated their game to the NWHL, the chance to compete at the All-Star Game had a serendipitous tone, as each were Media All-Star selections. Gracing the classic game at Pittsburgh was not only testament to their talent, but a remarkable example of their potential to shine as ambassadors for their respective teams.
“It was great seeing some Canadians in the All-Star Game, exemplifying the league’s international diversity. I had played against Babs in Ontario growing up so it was nice to see how far both of us have come.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credit: Troy Parla