The Metropolitan Riveters have been off to a very rough start, only winning one game so far this season, and getting swept for the season. After a two-week break due to the Four Nations tournament (where the Riveters sent only one player), the team was looking for a quick win against the Connecticut Whale, who they’ve dominated in every meeting since 2016.
Sadly, things did not go as we’d hoped. The Metropolitan Riveters remain winless at home. Coming off of a championship winning season, this was highly unexpected for the Riveters. So what happened?
Shortly before the puck dropped, the Riveters released their scratch list and while Courtney Burke’s absence didn’t come as a shock to anyone, the names Amanda Kessel and Miye D’Oench certainly did. As it turns out, Kessel has an undisclosed injury, most likely sustained during the Four Nations tournament. D’Oench, who was set to return this weekend, will wait until next weekend against the Whale to make her season debut.
The bright side is, with D’Oench and Burke expected to return to the lineup next week, it’s clear the Riveters haven’t been at full strength. Nonetheless, the Connecticut Whale should have been beatable.
The Riveters got off to an early lead with a lucky goal by Audra Richards, which was shortly followed by a Whale goal by Katerina Mrázová. The score remained 1-1 through the second and most of the third period, despite many opportunities on both sides for power play goals.
It turned into a battle of the goalies between Finnish goalie, Meeri Räisänen, looking for her first NWHL win, and Katie Fitzgerald looking to reclaim her great save percentage. After a highlight reel-worthy game, both players achieved both tasks.
The third period story seemed to land on Madison Packer who, after playing her usual physical game, headed off the ice to address a facial laceration. She returned minutes later, bandaged up only to take a hit, limp back off the ice, return again, grab a breakaway and take another hit. That was until an untimely ‘too many men’ whistle was heard on Connecticut, just as Audra Richards took off on a breakaway.
Now I’m not naive enough to assume that would have resulted in a goal, creating a completely different outcome of the game. However, for a team that just seems unable to catch a break, it’s pretty par for the course. After that series of unfortunate events, it was clear the Riveters lost their momentum.
With less than two minutes in the game, Shannon Doyle of the Whale broke the tie and led Connecticut to their first victory of the season, and first at Newark in over two years, leaving the Riveters devastated despite outshooting the Whale 26-20.
We’ve said it before here, but something needs to change. Whether the blame falls on new head coach Randy Velischek, who doesn’t seem to fit, having a list of injured players, or pure lack of offense the Riveters have been able to produce, with players who usually excel in that regard, it’s clear that there is a growing problem.
Connecticut isn’t a team to sleep on anymore. Signing Meeri Räisänen this offseason was big for the team who usually claims last place.
The next two contests against the Whale are must wins. Falling to anything more than 1-6 heading into a tougher part of the season where the Riveters will play Buffalo and Boston just spells trouble.
The Riveters play the Connecticut Whale again next Sunday at home, and with the addition of D’Oench, Burke, (and hopefully) Kessel again, let’s hope they can gain enough momentum to put a few more wins on the board and get back into the groove of things.