Walking into Kettler this evening, I didn't quite know what to expect. My experience with women's hockey starts and ends with my high school girls' hockey team. We were terrible; since there were only three high school girls' teams in the area including us, we were regularly beaten by embarrassing margins by boys in peewee leagues.
But once warmups began for the JWHL All-Star game, I knew that this was on a whole different level.
Simply said, these girls are good.
The teams were divided into Team White and Team Dark. One team wore their individual team's white jerseys, and the other team wore their team's alternate jerseys (which were red, black, green, dark blue, depending on the team). The game was just two periods long for the sake of scheduling, with a very short intermission between the two periods.
Three of the four Challenge Cup participants that were part of the gold medal-winning Team USA team were in the All-Star game (the fourth is on a team that has not yet arrived in DC). Despite an attempted comeback by Team Dark in the second period, Team White was victorious over Team Dark 5-4.
Though gold medal-winning goaltender Megan Miller finished up the game for Team White, it was Brittney Brooks, who played the first period, that made an impression to me.
Brooks, playing for the Colorado Select, is 6-4-2 this season with the Select, with a 2.63 GAA and .893 SV%. She reminds me of Semyon Varlamov; she's quick with her lateral movement in the crease, has great reflexes, and benefits from her flexibility (she made one save in the splits during the game). She allowed one goal, early in the game, and faced 13 shots.
In terms of forwards, when I signed up to cover the tournament, I was told about Haley Skarupa, a native of Rockville, MD. One of the scoring leaders in the IIHF Women's World U18 Championships, she is also the Captain of the hometown Washington Pride and has 33 goals this season -- in 18 games. Playing for Team Dark in the All-Star game, Skarupa racked up four assists (assisting on all Team Dark goals) and was awarded third star of the game. She's fast, a very smart skater, and puckhandles like a pro.
One more that deserves a mention is Amanda Pelkey, another member of the gold medal-winning Team USA. She is Jason Chimera-fast, no joke. Imagine Jason Chimera with Alexander Semin's puckhandling and you've got Pelkey. She is fancy on the skates, and is not only fast but incorporates her skillful skating with her keen ability to control the puck on her stick. It's no surprise that with her skill set, she was tied for first in scoring in the IIHF tournament.
After having seen the level of talent these young women have, the tournament should be an exciting one. Be sure to check the schedule and get to some games this weekend. You'll be pleasantly surprised.