COLUMBUS, Ohio – Tessa Bonhomme of the Ohio State women’s hockey team wrapped up her season in early March, but got to put a final cherry on top last Friday as a participant in the NCAA Skills Challenge as part of the 2008 Men’s Frozen Four in Denver. The event a showcase of skills including fastest skater, rapid shot, accuracy and penalty shot in an East vs. West format with teams made up of players who just concluded their senior seasons.
Bonhomme arrived in Denver Thursday evening in time to watch the semifinal games. They followed with dinner and socializing as most of the players went from opponents to teammates for the first time. For Bonhomme, a native of Sudbury, Ontario, it was her first time in the Mile High City and she was thoroughly impressed.
“I loved Denver,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful city and they did a great job hosting [the Frozen Four]. The hotel and accommodations were top-notch and the locals were all really welcoming. It was a great hockey environment; really pretty with lots to do.”
The teams hit the ice for the first time Friday morning following breakfast and a meeting with the organizers of the Skills Challenge. After picking up their equipment at the rink, provided by event sponsor Nike/Bauer, they were on the ice until the mid-afternoon going over the skills and getting their legs loose for the competition that evening.
The West team coaches George Gwozdecky, head coach at Denver, and Enrico Blasi, head coach at Miami University, met with the team and asked them which events players wanted to compete. While Bonhomme picked the fastest skater and shooting accuracy, she also was selected to compete participate in the rapid fire because one of the West women’s players could not make it to Denver because of travel complications.
The Skills Challenge began at 9 p.m. (MT) and Bonhomme opened it with a bang, winning the fastest skater event for the women’s side and picking up points for the West. While the rest of the events did not work out as well for her, in the end the West won and most importantly everyone involved had a great time.
“I started off on a high note winning the skating part,” Bonhomme said. “In the rapid fire, it didn’t feel too nice not making any of them and having one hit the post. Target shooting I think I only hit two.”
“But the West won, so it all worked out,” she added with a laugh.
The West celebrated by dousing Gwozdecky with Gatorade and spending the next two days enjoying Denver and becoming friends with former foes.
“All the players there were good people,” Bonhomme said. “That made it fun. We were there to enjoy company and put on a show. Everyone hung out together, from both the East and West teams, and got to know each other. For our senior years, it’s a good note end on.”