In the first overtime, and subsequently, first shootout game of the NWHL season, the Riveters topped the Connecticut Whale 4-3, after losing to them for the first time in over a year last Sunday.
It is no surprise that the Riveters have been off to a very rough start heading into this game, with just one win on the season. However, with Miye D’Oench and Courtney Burke making their season debut, along with Amanda Kessel headed back in from a minor injury, the Riveters were a fully loaded team for the first time all season.
The Riveters owned most of the first half of the first period and scored first with an Audra Richards goal. She would go on to score two more, giving her a hat trick, and 100% of the regulation goals this game. The rookie out of Maine proves her ability to score didn’t get left behind in college, as she was the leading scorer on the Black Bears for two years. she now has goals in four out of their last five games.
Still, the Riveters defense was still sorely lacking. This left Kimberly Sass open for Emily Fluke and Katerina Mrazova to team up and get one by her shortly after Richard’s first. In her defense, that Whale duo may be one of the most intimidating to face in NWHL history.
Putting up a fight against Richards, Mrazova netted another goal, as well as Kayla Meneghin to keep the game tied with a nice back and forth score. Shortly after Richards’ game-tying goal, key Metro defender, Kelsey Koelzer went down with a hard hit to the knee. She was escorted off the ice and did not return.
Just like Sass’ one and only start last season against the Whale, the game went to overtime. Although it should have been domination by Connecticut, it was ruined after Shannon Doyle, the Whale’s late-game hero last week, took a tripping penalty. After no score in OT, there was a shootout.
Sass didn’t let one shot by her in the shootout, which was a relief considering head coach Randy Velischek has never had to worry about a shootout in his coaching or playing career, giving him virtually no insight on what to do. He chose wisely, however, as Amanda Kessel, who had hit the crossbar twice during the game, and seemed due for a goal, put one in solidifying the win for the Riveters.
Some key elements to the Riveters heating up and getting their game back were the return of D’Oench and Burke. Stepping into this game and getting a handful of points between the two was crucial, and they succeeded.
Alexa Gruschow, last year’s league-leading goal scorer and MVP caught her first two points of the season, too. Playing alongside D’Oench, she seemed to fit in much better and can return to being a real asset to this team.
This defense needs work. Despite my nerves going into a game without starting Fitzgerald, Sass highly impressed me. The Whale are a tough team and can really put pucks to the net. I can really only fault her for one of the three goals that got by her. The other, one a power play goal, and one a shorthanded goal, rely on the Riveters defense who seemed to be…nowhere.
These two teams meet again to decide a winner of the three-game set next Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on neutral ice, in Pittsburgh at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex as a partnership with the NHL and Penguins.