The Women's Hockey League (WHL) has announced the rosters for Team East and Team West, who on the 10th of January will take to the ice in Astana, Kazakhstan, to compete in the 2018 WHL All-Star Game. A total of 34 players will take part in this star-studded game between the League's Eastern and Western Conferences.
It will be a second WHL All-Star Game for no fewer than 21 of the selected players, as they were also among the chosen few who took part in last season's event in Ufa back in January of 2017. That contest - the first WHL All-Star Game in history – ended in a 4-0 win for the women from the West.
Standing between the pipes as the West's last line of defense, a role she also filled in Ufa, will be Tornado (Moscow Region) goalie Nadezhda Aleksandrova, and she will be joined by Dynamo (Saint Petersburg) netminder Valeria Merkusheva, who also played in last year's game but for the Eastern Conference.
Given that the women of the West shut out the opposition in Ufa, it is no surprise they have kept many of the same players in defense: Aneta Teyralova of Dynamo, Liana Ganeyeva of Arctic-University (Ukhta), Angelina Goncharenko of Tornado and her team-mate, Maria Batalova. Joining them, and making their All-Star Game debut, are Nina Pirogova (Tornado) and Anastasia Chistyakova (Dynamo).
The West's offensive edge will include the stars who hit three of the four goals scored in last year's contest: Tornado's troika of Anna Shokhina, Lyudmila Belyakova and Alevtina Shtaryova, who struck the first ever goal in a WHL All-Star Game, plus Elena Dergachyova, also of Tornado, Evgenia Dyupina of Dynamo, and Fanuza Kadirova of Arctic-University, all of whom are veterans of the 2017 event. Making their debuts will be Diana Kanayeva and Ekaterina Smolina (both of Dynamo) and a guest player from Kazakh hockey - Zarina Tukhtieva of Aisulu Almaty.
In charge of Team West will be Tornado head coach Alexei Chistyakov, with Dynamo boss Alexander Zybin as his assistant.
Sharing goaltender duties for Team East will be Agidel (Ufa) netminder Anna Prugova, making her All-Star Game debut, and Nadezhda Morozova of Biryusa (Krasnoyarsk), who took part in last year's match.
In defense for the East are last season's veterans Ekaterina Lobova of Biryusa, Maria Pechnikova and Anna Shibanova (both of Agidel) and Franciska Kiss-Simonn of Skif (Nizhny Novgorod). They will be joined by debutantes Inna Dyubanok, of Agidel, and guest player Galia Nurgalieva, of Kazakh team HC Tomiris, part of the Barys system.
Spearheading the East's offense will be Ekaterina Lebedeva, Olga Sosina, Nicol Cupkova and Fanni Gasparics, all of Agidel and all with plenty of motivation, having been shut out by the West in last year's contest. It is unlikely these women will draw another blank, as the quartet currently lead the WHL rankings for goals and points. Joining them are All-Star Game first-timers Lydia Malyavko and Ekaterina Dobrodeyeva (both of Biryusa), Landysh Falyakhova and Polina Bolgareva (both of Skif), and Regina Yumaguzhina of SKSO (Yekaterinburg).
Team East head coach will be Denis Afinogenov (Agidel), assisted by Vladimir Golubovich (Skif).
The WHL All-Star Game gets underway at 18:30, Astana Time, on the 10th of January, 2018, and fans waiting for the big event will be treated to a glittering pre-match show. Moreover, during the intervals in the All-Star Game, the star players will take part in the Master Show, where they will compete in a number of events specially devised to test their speed, technique and athleticism.