PHF All-Star Snubs and Recap — Must-click women’s hockey links

The IX: Hockey Friday with Eleni Demestihas, Feb. 3, 2023

Happy Friday! A lot has happened in the PHF the last week, so I’ll focus on them this time around, and then plug some Black creators in and around women’s hockey to celebrate Black History Month. 

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The PHF All-Star game happened last weekend, so I’d like to go over a list of players I would have sent as All-Stars who didn’t get the nod. 

First, while I can understand the appeal of the way the league structured all-star teams—the intent to showcase the fact that there are many very talented players in the league this year from outside North America—I think structuring it in that way makes it inherently less of an All-Star game and more like a mini World Cup of Hockey. Which is fine, in fact it would have been a great option instead of an All-Star game, because people have been begging for a World Cup of Hockey for women’s hockey for years. I don’t want to give out free ideas necessarily, but throwing your weight into a World Cup round-robin branding and announcing the location early enough that people could actually travel for the event would likely have made more money and been much easier to market online, especially so close to the PWHPA All-Star showcase. 

Regardless, they structured it with three teams, players from the USA, from Canada, and from everywhere else. Now, several players on Team World were not actually born outside North America (Leah Lum is from British Columbia and Taylor Baker was born in Toronto), but they do all represent other countries international, and it was a really cool mix of Hungarian players, Finnish players, Slovak players, Czech players, and a player each representing China, Austria, and Sweden. The way this is structured, I only really have one snub from Team World. Sure, there are other players in the league from outside of North America, like veteran Janine Weber (Austria/Connecticut) and goalie Lovisa Selander (Sweden/Boston). But my one snub for Team World is Lovisa Berndtsson (Sweden/Buffalo). 

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Yeah, Buffalo’s record is bad. And yeah, Berndtsson’s overall stats for this season may not be your typical all-star numbers. But her most recent stretch of games has been more than just impressive, it’s been downright heroic. She kept Buffalo to a 2-1 OT loss against the frankly overpowered Boston Pride with 33 saves and a .943 SV% on January 15th. She notched her first ever PHF win against the Riveters on January 22nd, a 4-1 win where she had 41 saves and a staggering .976 SV%. And the game she played in between against a hot Connecticut team where the Beauts were unable to score at all still found her with a SV% above .900. She’s doing all this despite being leaned on as the starter after Kassidy Sauvé’s injury, at 5’5”, and one season removed from multiple hip surgeries. If that’s not an All-Star, I don’t know what we’re doing here. 

I will say that her dominant stretch came close enough to the ASG that I don’t actually blame the PHF for not calling her in. They should have had 2 goalies per team regardless. But I refuse to write about All-Stars without writing about Berndtsson’s ridiculous performances. 

As for Team Canada, I completely understand there are simply too many great players to choose from for everyone to go. That being said, two players stand out in my mind. 

One is Connecticut defender Allie Munroe. Munroe has twelve assists in fifteen games, which has her at a 19-point pace for the season (24 games). She’s also, crucially, from Nova Scotia. 

One is Montreal goaltender Marie-Soleil Deschênes. For a 5’3” goaltender on an expansion team to have a .918 SV% through 14 games is just ridiculous. Her stats have her right up there with Amanda Leveille. 

As for Team USA, I have one big snub in mind: Claudia Kepler. She’s tied with Grant-Mentis as leading scorers on a Beauts team that otherwise basically doesn’t score, with twelve points. She’s their leading goalscorer with seven goals, more than twice the number that any of her teammates have. She should have been an all-star, full stop. 

Ultimately, Team Canada won the All-Star challenge behind impressive performances from Loren Gabel (Boston) and Brittany Howard (Toronto). Gabel was later named MVP of the showcase, while Canada goalie Corinne Schroeder (Boston) won most outstanding goalie. Looking at Team Canada’s roster, it isn’t surprising to see them win it all, especially when you consider Gabel and Howard played off of each other with instant chemistry and Schroeder leads the league in SV% by a wide margin.

The biggest story of the showcase, to me, was Team World—who beat Team Canada and Team USA to make it to the final, where Team Canada was able to put it away. Team World’s roster definitely appeared to be the “weakest” on paper, but since it’s an All-Star showcase, that means almost nothing. They put on a serious show, led by Hungarian standout Fanni Garat-Gasparics, who had four goals across Team World’s games (three against Team USA and one in the final). It’s unquestionably true that Gabel was impressive over the weekend, as she has been all season, but I think Gasparics would have been my MVP pick for her massive performance against Team USA.

You can read a game-by-game summary of the All-Star showcase here.

This week, the Buffalo Beauts made a few moves. One was to sign former Toronto Six goalie Sam Ridgewell, who has bounced between the SDHL and PHF since she graduated from Merrimack in 2019. Her only full season since then was 2019-2020 for Djurgårdens IF, where she had a .920 SV% in 22 games. Since then her sample size as a pro has been too small to really draw conclusions from, but if nothing else having a platoon of goalies between Berndtsson, Hofmann and Ridgewell should help alleviate the significant workload faced by any Beauts goalie this season.

In a corresponding release, the Beauts disclosed that Kassidy Sauvé is done for the season. In a statement of her own, she disclosed that she will need surgery for a lower-body injury in order to be ready for next season. 

The Beauts have also signed Mercyhurst alum Maggie Knott to a practice player contract. Knott graduated in 2020 and was affiliated with the PWHPA in the 2020-2021 season. A practice player contract for her is a smart move for the Beauts, especially if they can turn it into a full time contract next season. Knott may not have played a full season since 2019-2020, but she was an impressive scoring threat at the NCAA level and played with current Beauts Emma Nuutinen and Summer-Rae Dobson. 

I want to shout out two specific Black creators and organizations in and around the women’s hockey space as we enter the first week of Black History Month.

If you follow the sport, I’m sure you already know Erica Ayala. I want to specifically direct you to her media company, Black Rosie Media. You can follow BRM on Twitter here.

You should also be following Black Girl Hockey Club, and while you’re at it, go ahead and sign the Get Uncomfortable pledge if you haven’t already.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
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Fridays: Hockey
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Saturdays: Gymnastics
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Written by Eleni Demestihas