16 New England club hockey teams attend All-Star Weekend at Sullivan Arena

Tim Wirzburger, Crier Staff

The Saint Anselm club hockey team hosted the NECHA Regional All-Star Game and Skills competition on Sunday at Sullivan Arena. Featured at the event were 38 players representing 16 different schools that showcased their skills throughout an action-packed afternoon.

One of the most exciting parts of the season in the National Hockey League is the All-Star weekend in which fans get to vote for representatives from their cities, and the best players in the world get together and display their skill set. The Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association took to this tradition in the Conference’s first All-Star competition.

Sullivan Arena was filled with the friends and families of student-athletes who had come from all over the New England area to participate. The players were divided into two teams, white and dark, and wore their respective jerseys.

The day began with the skills competition, which started off with the race for fastest skater. Players were timed in a lap around the ice as well as in a head to head race that even several goalies participated in. A forward from the University of Maine won with his quick feet despite a strong showing from many of the speedy skaters.

Next was accuracy shooting, in which players had 5 pucks to shoot on a plastic goalie that covered all parts of the net but the 5 corners. The players formed a semi-circle on their knees as each guy got to take a turn testing their accuracy. It was one of the funnier parts of the day to watch just how many shots hit the goalie (and how many missed the net completely!)

The hardest shot competition followed, which illustrated the strength and power that many players possessed with a stick in their hand. Saint A’s own team was well represented here, with seniors Matt Harnish and Jake Ouellette taking first and second place, respectively. This is an all-too-fitting outcome because Boston Bruins defenseman, Zdeno Chara, has taken the NHL hardest shot award home the last four years.

The breakaway challenge followed, in which players got to go 1-on-1 on a goalie and score. If you missed, you were eliminated. Due to the talent of the goalies present in the competition, only about 7 players scored and advanced to the second round. As each round went by, there were fewer and fewer players left standing until it was down to two. They exchanged goals for 3-4 rounds until the Bryant player was able to utilize his slick hands and beat the goalie after the Bridgewater player had been stuffed.

The NHL All-Star game is often criticized for being a boring event with lack of passion by the players, but the NECHA game was anything but that. The players, most of them never playing together before, showcased their speed, quick hands, and hockey IQ in a hard-fought battle for the victory. Saint A’s was represented by Seniors Harnish, Ouellette, Mike Valenti, Paul Burns, and Junior Alex Murphy.

“It was a great opportunity to showcase the talent that club hockey has. We got to meet guys from all over New England and the best got to show what they had to offer,” said Valenti. “Also, Coach Tom Bullock can’t be thanked enough for what he has done for us as students and as hockey players.”

Hopefully this will be the first of many All-Star competitions at the Hilltop to celebrate what a great tradition club hockey has become.