The Metropolitan Riveters have not had a very successful season, sitting at 3-8 with just five regular season games left to try and lift themselves from the bottom of the standings. However, 2019 has seemingly brought new life to the team, as the first game of the new year sparked six goals, and a huge win over the Connecticut Whale.
The main difference between this game and prior games this season is the starting goalie in net. Maria Sorokina did not disappoint in her NWHL debut, blocking 18 shots by her former team, and I anticipate her carrying this power through the rest of the season in her rightful starting position.
In spite of this, I think the win is far more credited to the offense, who came in hot and scored three early goals to put the Riveters in a safe position for the game. Players in droughts were racking up points, and struggling lines seemed to dominate their ice time. It was a wonderful sight that will sadly be hard to replicate, as the Riveters take on a much harder part of their schedule from here on out.
With one more game against the first place Boston Pride, and their four total games against the Buffalo Beauts to still be played, knocking down the Whale one last time was just a small feat in the Riveters’ journey back to the top.
This weekend, the Riveters play the Beauts for the first time this season. The last time these two teams faced was in the 2018 Isobel Cup final, in which the Riveters took home the Cup. However, they haven’t faced the Beauts in the regular season since March 4, 2018, and haven’t beaten them in the regular season since December 10, 2017. So these next four games are sure to be an uphill battle against a team they aren’t all too familiar with and one they are going to have to top if they want to think about playoff success.
Since their last meeting, the Beauts have overhauled their goaltending situation as their former goalie, Amanda Leveille opted to play for the inaugural Whitecaps this season in her home state of Minnesota.
In return, the Beauts signed a pair of hockey powerhouses in Nicole Hensley and Shannon Szabados, claiming a piece of both the USA and Canadian national teams respectively. In other words, they are a force to be reckoned with, especially by an offense that’s had recent struggles.
Hensley and Szabados have split the starting position based on scheduling, matchups, and who may be riding a hot hand rather than having a definitive starter and backup. Knowing that both are ready to go at any moment is a scary thought for even the toughest opponents.
The Beauts also claim the league’s top leading goal scorer in Maddie Elia, and points leader in Hayley Scamurra. Their third place spot in the standings is only a testament to how good the teams ahead of them have been, as most players on this Beauts roster are putting up all-star numbers this season.
If the Riveters can bring the same energy and flow from the last game to this one, I think this will be the most entertaining game of the season and will truly be a battle. If not, it may be a slippery slope back down to last place. I anticipated a low scoring game last week and was proven wrong, but when either of these two Buffalo goalies is in net, it will be hard to put six goals in. I predict a 3-2 win for the Riveters.
This game will be streamed on the NWHL Youtube on Jan. 12 at 1:30 p.m.