01/22 22:19 CST 4 U.S. women's team members play in ECHL All-Star Classic
4 U.S. women's team members play in ECHL All-Star Classic
By JEFFREY PARSON
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) --- The visor on Annie Pankowski's helmet gave her
significant pause before the ECHL All-Star Classic.
"That is the first time me and the other women have worn visors," said the
three-time wold champion who has always worn a full cage. "When I saw that, it
was the first time I got nervous. I started telling some of the guys like, you
know, I'm not going to play defense."
Not to worry, no one else was playing much defense, either.
Pankowski was one of four members of the U.S women's team taking part in the
event played in collaboration with the Professional Women's Hockey Players
Dani Cameranesi, Kali Flanagan and Gigi Marvin also played on the 2018 U.S.
Olympic gold medal team.
The ECHL event featured four teams playing short games against each other.
There was one female player on each team in the nationally televised showcase.
"It's an opportunity for our league to celebrate our players but also to
highlight hockey everywhere for our fans to enjoy," ECHL commissioner Ryan
But while the women were competing with some of the better players in
minor-league hockey, the games barely resembled normal competition. It was 3 on
3 with no stoppages --- and almost no defense other than an occasional stick in
the passing lane.
"I was really nervous about how it would go, how the guys would accept us,"
Flanagan said. "But they made us feel like one of them."
Flanagan played for the Eastern Conference All-Stars, who won the event. She
scored a goal in the final, though it went into a wide open net after the puck
went off a referee's skate. That earned her some good-natured teasing in the
"Got lucky there," she said, laughing, "but you could tell by the time we got
to the final, the guys wanted to win."
Wichita Thunder forward Stefan Fournier said the women were a welcome addition
for the all-star festivities.
"They integrated right in," he said. "I think, for us, it was about respecting
all hockey players. Sure, the size of the players might be different between
men and women, but mentally, we are all just hockey players."
For Flanagan, the event was particularly special as her uncle, Joe Flanagan,
played in the ECHL All-Star Game more than 20 years ago.
"I was thrilled to be part of that," she said. "And I'm really happy the ECHL
is fighting for women's hockey."
Pankowski, playing with a team comprised of host Wichita Thunder players,
scored a backhanded goal in the night's third matchup, getting a big cheer from
Cameranesi and Marvin also scored goals during the round-robin portion of the
Pankowski was thrilled to see each of the women score, but she said one of her
favorite moments came after the sharp-shooting competition when she was just
yapping with other players.
"I told them I was worried about taking too long, that they might just turn the
lights out on me if it took too long to hit the targets," she said. "And they
were all like no, you did fine, look at what this guy did or whatever. It was
nice to be so relaxed like that, just joking player to player."