Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Many new faces part of CWHL's second All-Star Game

With the recent announcement that the second CWHL All-Star Game shall be held once again at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, it will be a much different game compared to the inaugural edition. Missing from this game will be two of the CWHL co-founders, Sami Jo Small and Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux.

Both competed in the first CWHL All-Star Game, and were the top picks overall in the CWHL All-Star Frozen Fantasy Draft. Small recently gave birth to a baby girl while Breton-Lebreux had made the transition to coaching. As a side note, co-founder Jennifer Botterill was part of the broadcast team for Sportsnet, who aired the game.

As the puck drop is scheduled to take place on January 23, 2016, meaning that no All-Star Game was held during the calendar year of 2015, a total of 34 players were named. Les Canadiennes de Montreal lead the way with nine players named. Following close behind are the Calgary Inferno with eight and seven from the Brampton Thunder. The host franchise Toronto Furies see six players involved while the last-place Boston Blades bring four to the All-Star Game.

In comparison to the inaugural game, which saw six goaltenders participate, including at least one from each team, the second game shall feature only four goaltenders between the pipes. Each goaltender is a repeat player from last year’s All-Star Game, headlined by Charline Labonte of Les Canadiennes de Montreal, who was also the captain for Team Red.

Joining her are Delayne Brian of the Calgary Inferno (the recipient of the 2014 CWHL Goaltender of the Year), Christina Kessler of the Toronto Furies (credited with the first loss in CWHL All-Star Game history) and Boston Blades backstop Genevieve Lacasse. Brampton’s goaltender Erica Howe, who won the inaugural All-Star Game was not named.

Instead, Brampton sends four blueliners to the second All-Star Game. Brampton captain Jocelyne Larocque leads a group that includes Courtney Birchard (who was selected for the first All-Star Game but could not play), Laura Fortino and Sarah Edney, the first overall pick in the 2015 CWHL Draft.

Les Canadiennes de Montreal sends three blueliners (Cathy Chartrand, Julie Chu and Lauriane Rougeau) to the event, while Boston Blades captain Tara Watchorn is joined by Dru Burns, one of six blueliners making her debut at the All-Star Game. Of the two Furies members that round out the defense, it represents an exciting new chapter in All-Star Game history.

Hailing from Hokkaido, Furies blueliner Sena Suzuki (who appeared at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games) is not only the first player of Japanese heritage to be named to an All-Star Game, she is also the first international player to participate. Of note, there was not one European player or any other international competitor that participated in the inaugural edition of the event.

The biggest change will be at the forward position. Of the 18 players participating, including Jessica Campbell, who was the captain for Team White at the inaugural game, 11 are making their All-Star Game debuts. Among said 11, six are part of the CWHL’s rookie class, including Boston’s Kristina Brown, the only Blades forward named, Montreal’s Katia Clement-Heydra, Emily Fulton, the Furies first-round pick in 2015, Brianne Jenner, a fellow first-round pick who is also Calgary’s captain along with Calgary teammates Jillian Saulnier and Elana Lovell, who was the CWHL’s leading scorer at the time of the announcement. 

Other forwards making their All-Star Game debut include members of Les Canadiennes Kim Deschenes and Marie-Philip Poulin, the first-ever winner of the CWHL’s Rookie of the Year Award. Candice Styles, one of three Brampton forwards at the event is joined by Furies forward Kelly Terry and living legend Hayley Wickenheiser from the Calgary Inferno (who played at the ACC back in 2000 with Team Canada), adding another notable chapter to her remarkable hockey legacy. 

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