NWHL Provides Memorable All-Star Game

Meghan Duggan poses with fans before the Skills Competition (photo credit : Elaine Shircliff)

Meghan Duggan poses with fans before the Skills Competition (photo credit : Elaine Shircliff)

 

From the moment the HarborCenter doors opened it was very clear January 24th was going to be an important day. This was going to be a day the hockey world would never forget.

 

Little girls held tight to their dad’s hands. They both had extreme amounts of joy plastered upon their faces. Little boys came with their sisters and gushed over their favorite National Women’s Hockey League player.

 

There were three girls standing along the glass with friends who came from Pittsburgh to display their unending fandom for Brianne McLaughlin and Kelley Steadman. Two players they grew up watching play on the international and college stage.

 

For Buffalo native Emily Pfalzer this was a time to showcase her talents and the sport she loves in front of the hometown.

 

I’m from Buffalo so obviously I’m really happy the All-Star game is here. I think we have a great fanbase, a great community here in buffalo.

 
 
    • Emily Pfalzer – Buffalo Beauts
 
 
 

 

 

Skills Competition

 

Before the start of the Skills Competition both teams were announced. Each girl made the best of the moment and laid it on thick for the crowd.

 

Blake Bolden posed for an invisible camera and Connecticut Whale players gave themselves fish tales with their sticks. All of Team Pfalzer bowed in the presence of their captain, Emily Pfalzer, when her name was announced.

 

First up for fans was the Shooting Accuracy challenge. Three players from each team had 30 seconds to hit four sprinkled donut shaped targets. Team Pfalzer had Darkangelo, Decker, and Steadman going toe to toe with Team Knight’s Bellamy, Packer, and Smelker.

 

The event was swept by Team Pfalzer. Darkangelo annhilated all four targets in 25 seconds. Decker managed to hit two targets before the buzzer sounded. However, Steadman destroyed the competition after hitting all four targets within 17.4 seconds.

 

Up next was the fastest skater competition which got a little intense when the goalie race between McLaughlin and Ott came around. Ott tried to give herself the leg up by throwing her stick at McLaughlin’s feet. Unphased McLaughlin dove and slid across the finish line. She did the worm in celebration. Team Pfalzer went on to win the event.

 
 

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The Breakaway Contest is where the fun really began. 

 

Announcer, Ryan Burgess, called Amanda Pelkey’s name. 

 

“First up for Team Knight, Amanda Pelkey”

 

There was no sign of Pelkey. She wasn’t on the ice or in the crowd. Where could Pelkey be?

 

Burgess tries again. 

 

“First up for Team Knight, Amanda Pelkey.” 

 

Pelkey was still no where to be found. 

 

Knight on the other hand was spotted at center ice standing next to an equipment bag which she began to drag towards the net. Halfway down the ice Knight stopped, unzipped the bag, and out popped Pelkey.

 

According to Knight, the equipment bag idea was straight from the mind of Pelkey in an attempt to keep things fun and light.

 

That was Pelkey’s idea. Honestly, for the skills competition we wanted to make sure the fans were having fun.”

 
 
    • Hilary Knight – Boston Pride Forward
 
 
 

The entertaining didn’t stop there. Both Brickner and Stack pulled extra sticks and pucks out of their jerseys to try and score during the breakaway challenge. Decker drank from a Dunkin Donuts cup and knocked a box of Dunkin Donuts Munchkins off of the net. Fujimoto tossed her stick at Knight in an attempt to rattle her. Pfalzer threw it back to one of the best hockey movies of all time, The Mighty Ducks, and attempted the Knuckle Puck which sailed over the crossbar. As you can see the ladies definitely tried to keep it light and fun.

 
NWHL All-Stars take a selfie to show their support for comrade Denna Laing. (photo credit : Elaine Shircliff)

NWHL All-Stars take a selfie to show their support for comrade Denna Laing. (photo credit : Elaine Shircliff)

 

While there were many moments of hilarity during the Breakaway Challenge, Gigi Marvin provided us with a more serious moment. She skated towards center ice in her All-Star jersey. As Marvin reached center ice she peeled off her jersey to reveal a Denna Laing Boston Pride shirsey. Everyone skated to center ice and took a selfie on the gopro extended a few feet in front of them to show support for their comrade. For Marvin, this hits closer to home than most everyone else. Marvin’s cousin is Lisa Marvin who was hit by a car last year and skated for the first time in February. Marvin has seen first hand how much of a struggle the recovery period is going to be for Laing. She knows the ups and downs of the process.

 

 

 

Team Pfalzer would go on to win the Breakaway Challenge after the fan vote secured Decker the win.

 

Rounding out the skills competition was the Heaviest Shot Challenge. Team Pfalzer earned another point after Megan Bozek hit at a whopping speed of 88 mph. Afterwards, she challenged Shea Weber (Nashville Predators) and Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins) to a hardest shot competition.

 
 

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Team Pfalzer swept the Skills Competition giving them the 4-0 lead heading into the All-Star Game.

 

 

 

The Game

 

The NWHL opted for a 2-period 4-on-4 format for the All-Star game which made many players, especially Knight, excited for the game.

 

When you drop a player there’s more ice to move so you can get a little more creative. Especially being more of a finesse game, you’re going to see more highly skilled and talented plays. I’m really happy it wasn’t a 3-on-3, that’s a lot of work.

 
 
    • Hilary Knight – Boston Pride
 
 
 

In under five minutes Kelley Steadman (Team Pfalzer) broke away from the pack and scored the first NWHL ALL-Star goal in history. Thirteen minutes later Team Pfalzer would get on the board again when Emily Field scored.Afterwards, Field threw her glove in the air like a grenade. When it dropped her teammates dropped.

 
 

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Team Knight finally notched a point on the scoreboard during the second period when Hayley Williams scored off of a pass from Madison Packer. This would be the lone goal for Team Knight.

 

For the rest of the All-Star game Team Pfalzer would dominate scoring three more goals to secure a 9-1 win over Team Knight. The final three goals came from Darkangelo, Skeats, and a second goal for Steadman.

 

Steadman’s two goals earned her the honor of MVP.

 

The teams kept their tradition of shaking hands after every game. However, there was a twist this time or should I say there was a pie involved.

 

 

 
 

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No one knew who the pie was intended for but once they saw the pie they stayed as far away from McLaughlin as possible.

 

I didn’t know it was going to be her (Ott). I was staying away from Bri because I saw her with the pie. She’s a trickster so when I shook her hand I was about a couple feet away from her.

 
 
    • Emily Pfalzer – Buffalo Beauts
 
 
 

As you can see the inaugural NWHL All-Star Game was a huge success full of many laughs and memories for all.

 

Friedman: Oilers Close To Major Trade

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman dropped a major revelation today regarding the Oilers search for a top pairing defenseman while appearing on Oilers Now radio show with host Bob Stauffer.

 

Friedman regularily appears on the 630 CHED radio show with Stauffer and hinted that GM Peter Chiarelli is working the phones in an attempt to land a No.1/2 defender and that the Oilers are on the verge with parting with a top young forward in return. He believes the Oilers are relatively close to moving a forward ranking them 1) right wing Jordan Eberle and 2) center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

 

The Oilers have been active in the past month or so adding some depth to their roster. Zack Kassian was brought in to be a power forward in the bottom six adding some much needed grit direly missing from the teams forward ranks. Adam Clendening was claimed off waivers to add a young capable puck moving defender to the backend. Both moves in the short-term are low risk and that help the team right now, yet hardly move the Richter scale in the big picture.

 

Edmonton has been ravaged with injuries and currently leads the league in man games lost. Upfront Connor McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins are both out. McDavid is expected back next week while RNH isn’t expected back for another 5-7 weeks with a broken hand. The picture on the backend is much worse, and that’s saying something. Oscar Klefbom, Andrew Ference and the much improved Brandon Davidson are all out. Klefbom is expected back in the next week or so, Davidson is an unknown and Ference is out for the season.

 
 

Friedman On Oilers Defense

 

What adds mud to the Oilers defense is that Mark Fayne has struggled, Nikita Nikitin is all but gone having been demoted to the minors for good this time and key acquistion Griffin Reinhart has been a mixed bag of results ultimately needing more time in the minors.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Defensemen (6)
Player Pos Age 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20  
Andrej Sekera D 29 $5,500,000 $5,500,000 $5,500,000 $5,500,000 $5,500,000
Justin Schultz D 25 $3,900,000 RFA        
Mark Fayne D 28 $3,625,000 $3,625,000 $3,625,000 UFA    
Eric Gryba D 27 $1,250,000 UFA        
Darnell Nurse D 20 $863,333 $863,333 $863,333 RFA    
Adam Clendening D 23 $761,250 RFA        
 

*Source: GeneralFanaager.com IR; Ference $3.25, Klefbom $894K, Davidson $585K. Buried salaries; Nikitin $3.55M ($4.5M). Minors: Reinhart $863K.

 

“The writing is very much on the wall.” – Elliotte Friedman RE: Justin Schultz

 

Friedman believes as many others do that Justin Schultz time with Edmonton is coming to a close.

 

Schultz, 25, has 9 points in 36 games this season and is coming off a back injury. Whether the Oilers find a trade partner or don’t tender a qualifying offer allowing him to walk is still up in the air. The young defender is unlikely to ever reach the huge expectations placed on him but a change of scenery is much needed. Reading between the lines with Nikitin and Schultz coming off the books that gives the Oilers a combined $8.4M in relief just in those two players. Edmonton needs a defender to replace one or both.

 
 

Travis Hamonic Being Targeted By Oilers

 

Back to Friedman; he believes the Oilers  key target here is Travis Hamonic of the New York Islanders. Hamonic, 25, is a right handed defenseman slowly becoming one of the leagues better shutdown defenseman. Hamonic has 10 points in 43 games and averages 23:42 TOI for the Isles as their No.1 defenseman.

 

Hamonic requested a trade from the Islanders due to family reasons in the early part of the year and it’s been rumored the Oilers along with the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets are the key teams interested.

 

Friedman’s take on this whole scenario is that he has no doubt Edmonton is heavily considering Hamonic. Now if he believes it’s going to happen now or later in the summer at the draft possibly is still up to debate but it seems these two teams are locked, it’s just a matter of putting something together that works for both teams.

 

To  add to this here is an exchange between Friedman and David Staples (Edmonton Journal) on Twitter following the interview with Stauffer:

 

Staples: Why do you think Hamonic to the Oilers? What would be coming back NYI way?

 

FriedmanI think the fact that both sides have already had discussions about Hamonic has significance. Isles want D, will get a forward. As for which forward, depends on which one Oilers deem most expendable. Don’t think Isles would want Yakupov. As much as I have a hard time believing Snow turned down (Oilers winger Jordan) Eberle, I think he’d do it at the end of the day.

 

StaplesIs it a rumour in New York that Snow turned down Eberle?

 

Friedman: It is. I’m not buying it, and if it did happen, had to be posturing.

 
 

Breaking Up The Core

 

It’s worth noting various other sources in Edmonton have been chasing this rumor for quite some time. Jim Matheson, David Staples, Jonathan Willis and even Stauffer himself have had takes. The other defenseman rumoured for some time has been Sami Vatanen from Anaheim, but there seems to be more smoke with Hamonic at this point.

 

“I do believe we are getting closer to the day that Edmonton makes a move with one of its young forwards. I would say on the ranking of it probably (Jordan) Eberle one, (Ryan) Nugent-Hopkins two for a young player, for a defenceman. I think that everybody is looking at Hamonic and saying, ‘Is there going to be a match there?’ I have no doubt that that is what the Oilers are considering. I have no doubt they’re going to try to get it done.”  – Elliotte Friedman on Oilers Now 630 CHED with Bob Stauffer

 

The Islanders are going to be hard pressed to re-sign Kyle Okposo who could strike it rich this summer as a UFA. Okposo, 27, is coming off a deal that gives him a $2.8M cap hit and he’ll likely double that this summer if he hits market. If.

 

RelatedCult of Hockey: Oilers pushing for Hamonic, Friedman says

 

RelatedDid Someone Say Bold?

 

Is it entirely possible the Oilers try to throw a deal together with both Hamonic and Okposo coming back the other way? That would be a blockbuster to say the least and the Oilers would need to move more than one of Eberle or RNH to  get it done. For what it’s worth Okposo has 12 goals and 35 points in 45 games this season. Here’s a comparison of the three forwards:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Player

 
GP G A PTS PTS/GP
 

TOI

 
Kyle Okposo 45 12 23 35 0.78 18:14
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 46 8 22 30 0.65 19:50
Jordan Eberle 37 11 11 22 0.59 18:30
 

Eberle, 22, is on pace for 21 goals and 42 points in 69 games this season, his lowest since his 43 point rookie season in 2010-11. Eberle has led the Oilers in scoring before and has been one of the teams most dynamic forwards throughout the rebuild. He’s also been one of the teams most valuable trade chips, something the previous regimes have been reluctant to part with. Eberle will get the Oilers the best possible return amongst the group they are willing to move. It’s now looking more and more likely that this is the guy that’s going to go, even more so considering where Friedman’s insider knowledge is stating.

 

RelatedCult of Hockey: Jordan Eberle is the most expendable of the Oilers’ high-end forwards

 

RNH, 22, is also having a down year and prior to his injury had 8 goals and 30 points in 46 games. It was believed earlier this season that a deal with Nashville for Seth Jones had RNH going the other way. Rumors. Regardless head coach Todd McLellan has found himself a 200-ft player in RNH, someone he compares to Joe Pavelski in San Jose, dependable.

 

It’s going to be a hard pill to swallow and fans need to realize that to get quality you need to give up quality. Nashville and Columbus learned that the hard way when Jones  and Ryan Johansen switched places, Edmonton and Islander fans are about to learn the same lesson.

 
 

Nissan Recalls Altima for Third Time to Fix Hood Latches

Curvy, dramatic styling mimics bigger brother Maxima and gives the Altima an upscale vibe. Engine choices are either a 182-hp 2.5-liter four or a 270-hp 3.5-liter V-6, both with a CVT. The SR infuses a little fun by adding stiffer suspension tuning, paddle shifters, and unique wheels. Forward emergency braking with adaptive cruise control creates a robust active-safety bundle. Overall, the Altima is a capable sedan with a decent options list and a roomy, comfortable cabin. FULL COVERAGE ››

Nissan is recalling 846,000 Altima sedans in the U.S. for faulty hood latches. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is the third (and hopefully final) time this problem has surfaced.

 

The 2013-2015 Altima has a secondary hood latch—the one you grab after the hood pops open partially—that may not lock the hood in place. Assembly problems with the actuation lever and improper anti-corrosion coating have contributed to the latches binding and rusting. Since dealers may have made haphazard repairs on the second round of 625,000 cars (that involved grease and bending a lever), Nissan wants to replace all of the hood latches just to be safe. The first recall, initiated in September 2014, involved 220,000 cars from 2013.



In January 2015, Nissan recalled 170,665 late-model Pathfinder and Infiniti JX35/QX60 SUVs for problems with secondary hood latches, which were installed incorrectly so that the hood-release cable would not engage the locking claw.

How We’d Spec It, Size Xtra Small: 2016 Smart Fortwo

2016 Smart Fortwo Passion coupe

Don’t laugh—people actually buy Smart Fortwos, and the way Smart structures the car’s option sheet, those folks are encouraged to delve deep into the catalog of personalization accessories. Indeed, only the base-spec Fortwo Pure trim level offers any real limitations on optional goodies—you can still pick from a dizzying array of colors for the body panels and “Tridion” safety cage. At the recent launch event for the Fortwo cabriolet, the head of Smart mentioned that most Fortwos are purchased loaded or nearly loaded and that few trade hands for anything close to the listed $15,400 base price. Checking out Smart’s online Fortwo configurator for ourselves, we were surprised by just how individualized one can make a Fortwo, and naturally felt prompted to build one for ourselves.

MODEL:

Smart Fortwo Passion coupe (base price: $16,890)

The Fortwo coupe is offered in four trim levels: Pure, Passion, Prime, and Proxy. The most expensive, the Proxy, is also the most polarizing, with only a searing blue-and-white interior color scheme and a $19,230 price tag; it’s also the only way to get the Fortwo’s first-ever five-speed manual option and the sport suspension. If you can dig that interior, we’d suggest it’s the way to go, but we can’t, so we set our sights lower, toward the heart of the Fortwo lineup. That landed us the Passion, which comes nicely equipped with automatic climate control, cruise control, 15-inch aluminum wheels, power heated side mirrors, map lights, a nifty center-console storage drawer, a cargo cover, and a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. (The base Pure rides on steel wheels and does without everything listed above, while the next-level-up Prime adds leather seating surfaces, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a clear roof panel, fog lights, LED taillights, and heated seats.) For $16,890, the Fortwo Passion represents the strongest value in the Fortwo lineup—and we say that understanding that, overall, the Fortwo lineup lacks value given the cars’ extreme smallness and its price parity with larger, similarly equipped vehicles.

2016 Smart Fortwo Passion coupe

OPTIONS:

Titania grey matte body panels ($450)

Black Tridium cell ($0)

Fog lights ($110)

Center armrest ($100)

Lighting package ($400)

Height-adjustable driver’s seat ($100)

Panoramic roof ($350)

Heated seats ($240)

Orange and black cloth interior ($0)

What’s most surprising about the Fortwo’s plethora of options for body panel colors, interior schemes, and various knick-knacks isn’t the breadth of choices—it’s that none of the extras we added cost more than $500. As a result, we had no qualms over adding seven (!) extra-cost items to flesh out our Passion coupe. Starting with the car’s exterior, we painted the exposed portion of the Fortwo’s Tridium safety cage a glossy black. For the body panels, we ordered up a butch-looking matte-grey hue; we’ve seen this combination in person and must say, it eliminates nearly all of the Smart’s inherent cuteness. Not that we’d be self-conscious behind the wheel of a Fortwo or anything.

A $110 pair of fog lights for the front bumper and a $400 Lighting package (LED taillights and LED daytime running lights) added a dash of glitter to the headlights and taillights. We’d have ordered the $600 sport package for the nifty mini-Mercedes-AMG wheels and lowered suspension it includes, but Smart requires it be paired with the optional dual-clutch automatic transmission. Kind of a buzzkill for the car’s sportiness, no? To us, the five-speed manual is more important to the Fortwo’s fun factor, not to mention extracting the most from its 89-hp turbo three-cylinder engine.

2016 Smart Fortwo Passion coupe

To add a pop of color to our Smart’s palette, we sprung for the no-cost orange-and-black cloth interior option. An all-black scheme and a seemingly dirt-seducing white-and-black arrangement are also choices. To brighten things up even further, we added the $350 clear panoramic roof. Comfort enhancers like heated seats (a steal at $240), a height-adjustable driver’s seat ($100), and a center armrest ($100) were easy and affordable additions.



Our imaginary Smart Fortwo’s total MSRP will probably dredge up yet again the question of value, and at $18,640 our matte-grey city car is hardly cheap. Even so, treat the Fortwo as a fashion accessory, almost like an even smaller Mini Cooper (which offers an even wider array of personalization options), and keeping the minicar under $20,000 should be considered admirable. Fiat 500s and Minis are ubiquitous, not to mention priced well over $20K if equivalently equipped, and if you truly don’t need space for more than one passenger or live somewhere where parking is a real concern, the Smart isn’t such a dumb choice.

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