East Doubles Up West in Skills Challenge

After getting into an early 2-0 hole after the puck-control relay, the East squad went on an eight-point run en route to a 16-8 victory over the West during the Skills Challenge portion of Friday Night at the Frozen Four.

“We got outcoached,” joked West team and Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “We didn’t gel in time.”

The key to the East’s success? “We made sure we made curfew,” said coach Brian Durocher, who also heads the women’s squad at Boston University.

In all seriousness, fun was had by all during the annual Skills Challenge.

Melanie Gagnon of Minnesota signs autographs for some of the young fans at the Skills Challenge (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Melanie Gagnon of Minnesota signs autographs for some of the young fans at the Skills Challenge (photo: Jim Rosvold).

As mentioned, the West got out to a 2-0 lead after the puck control relay, with the West winning both heats.

After that, however, it was all East.

“The 2-0 lead is the worst lead in hockey, and that proved true tonight,” quipped Durocher.

The East destroyed the West in the fastest skater competition. The East had the fastest male and female times overall, and then won both individual heats as well. Boston College’s Maggie Taverna beat St. Cloud State’s Megan McCarthy, 16.44 to 16.82 seconds, to put the East up 3-2 and then Army’s Zach McKelvie (15.05 seconds) beat Denver’s Patrick Mullen (15.69 seconds) to put his team up 4-2.

Durocher’s squad continued their run in the hardest shot section, gaining another three points. Sam Hunt from Colgate had the hardest shot for the women, firing a 75.3 mph shot, while BC’s Andrew Orpik tallied the hardest shot for the men at 88.8 mph. The East also had the highest overall average, beating the West 81.6 mph to 78.3 mph.

After his first shot, the eventual winner, Orpik’s BC and East teammate Brock Bradford jokingly handed him a mini-stick for his second shot.

The East took an 8-2 lead, with its women scoring five goals during the rapid fire contest compared to the West’s two. The men tied, with each side scoring one goal, so each squad was awarded a point. However, given the women’s success, the East entered the accuracy contest up 10-3.

Crysti Howser from Yale’s two targets beat Niagara’s Ashley Riggs’ one to put the East up 11-3 after the first set of the accuracy competition, but the West finally got another chance to shine thanks to Air Force’s Greg Flynn.

After seeing Quinnipiac’s Bryan Leitch hit three targets, Flynn missed his first shot and then hit all five targets, making him the only player to hit each target and narrow the lead to 11-4.

“I was really nervous going into it,” he said. “I signed up for it, thinking, “Oh, it’ll be fine. Maybe I’ll hit a couple and save face.”

Bradford got close with four targets and then Western Michigan’s Patrick Galivan hit two, but the East hit the most overall targets to make it 12-4 going into the breakaway competition.

In the first round of the breakaway, all three female shooters for the East scored. Clarkson’s Marie-Jo Gaudet and Hunt scored fairly straightforward goals on Brianne McLaughlin, who normally tends goal for Robert Morris, but New Hampshire’s Sam Faber stole the first round. Faber slid the puck to her back inside skate and kicked it back up to her stick before she tapped it past McLaughlin.

Wisconsin’s Angie Keseley was the only player from the West to score during the second heat on a backhand which she put five-hole past Boston University’s Allyse Wilcox.

Taverna made it 16-5 during the second heat, with both Elmira’s Kayla Coady and Howser missing their mark. Howser missed it in spectacular fashion, pulling out a move from “D2: The Mighty Ducks,” bouncing the puck on her stick like Dwayne before trying to smack it out of mid-air and in, but the puck never made it on net.

The final female heat also only saw one goal, with Riggs sniping a shot top-shelf stick-side past Connecticut’s Brittany Wilson.

The male goalies gave the West a chance to come back, with Michigan’s Billy Sauer stopping all three shots he faced to keep it 16-6. However, Flynn was the only West player to score in the second heat, going five-hole on Hobart’s Keith Longo.

“I’m glad it went in,” said Flynn. “I’ll take it to my grave that I did what I was trying to do.”

Alaska Fairbanks’s Chad Johnson kept it 16-7, stonewalling the last crew of East shooters, including Bradford who also failed at Howser’s Disney-inspired move.

Wisconsin’s Tom Gorowsky and Mullen both failed to get a puck past Yale’s Alec Richards, but Colorado College’s Chad Rau succeeded in sliding a puck past the goalie, thanks in part to both fancy stickhandling on Rau’s part and also thanks to Richards standing backwards in the crease.

Overall, though, both the players and the fans in attendance enjoyed themselves immensely.

“The kids had a lot of fun,” Durocher summed up. “We had some pretty good offensive skills displayed.”

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