By David F. Pendrys
NEWARK, NJ – The Riveters defeated the Connecticut Whale 4-0 Sunday afternoon which likely wouldn’t surprise many. The Rivs are currently the best team in the NWHL as they are playing the most in sync and have Katie Fitzgerald to back stop them. The 4-0 win might seem like a blow out but it was not as the Whale had their chances too as each side put up 25 shots on the night. The difference is the Riveters could finish as they had players ready for rebounds and to accept breaking passes. The New Jersey based team went int the game without Ashley Johnston also welcomed back Madison Packer and she played like she never left, and brought in newcomer Kelly Nash wasted little time in getting noticed for her play.
The Whale, still growing as a team, had plenty of breaks in on net, but just could not get it past Fitzgerald either due to the goalie’s stellar play or a lack of followup being in place. Whale goaltender Sydney Rossman gave up goals but several were due to defensive issues as opposed to goalie play. Whale coach Ryan Equale had noted the team’s need to get into better condition. Unlike the Riveters, they have a team that held over a small core and has added a lot of pieces, it’s going to take time for all of them to work together as seamlessly as the Riveters do. Nonetheless the Whale generated a variety of chances against a top of the line Rivs defense.
Alexa Gruschow struck at 3:15 in the first after Courtney Burke fed it from the side of the zone to her right in front of Rossman. She was able to beat the keeper in the one on one contest. Jenny Ryan also picked up an assist. Later in the period, Packer brought the puck out of her own zone and into the attack sending it over to Nash who was centered. She stickhandled and set up a shot in at 17:05 for her first NWHL goal.
“I didn’t expect it to go in, but I’ll take it,” Nash said.
Nearly exactly twenty minutes later Miye D’Oench put one on the board assisted by Gruschow. In the third period a rare penalty put the Rivs on the power play and Erika Lawler cycled it to Packer who was in front. She didn’t shoot and instead whisked the puck to Bray Ketchum who lurked at Rossman’s right and she knocked it in at 11:01.
“They’re a good team, they play and hard and fast,” Nash said. “There was a player on the other team that I coached for four years so it was kinda cool to be on the ice against her…it was a competitive game. I think we dominated the first period, and they kind of took over the second period so it was a pretty good back and forth game. Even though the score was four-nothing.”
Both goaltenders had their share of critical saves as Fitzgerald naturally picked up 25 in the shutout and had to stop multiple breaks including when Babstock and Battaglino had two consecutive shots right on her during a 2 on none attack. Rossman made 21 saves including stopping a streaking Packer cold on a break and later a D’Oench close range attempt. She also made plays out of her net adventurously to disrupt opposing attacks.
“[Fitzgerald] is a great goalie back there and she definitely saved us in the second period. If she weren’t there I think it could have been a totally different game,” Nash noted.
It was a game which was very chippy but almost no penalties were called to the point it was almost mysterious why. Only there infractions were called all game despite some scary interactions from both sides. It did allow the game to be wide open in one sense but it could have ended up like Boston v. Buffalo.
The Whale also saw the debut of Hanna Beatie who contributed right out of the gate to the team’s efforts.
Babstock led the Whale with four shots, Juana Baribeau and Emily Fluke had 3, and Amanda Boulier, Stephanie Mock, Shannon Doyle, Jamie Goldsmith, and Cydney Roesler all had 2 each.
For the Riveters, Tatiana Rafter and Ketchum had 3. Erika Lawler, Jenny Ryan, Courtney Burke, Gruschow, Packer, Harrison Browne, and Michelle Picard had 2 each.
Paige Savage, Jamie Goldsmith, and Boulier had 2 blocks each to lead the Whale, and Shannon Doyle, Babstock, Elena Orlando, and Roesler all had 1.
For the Rivs, Ketchum had 3 blocks, Picard had 2, and Rebecca Morse, Packer, D’Oench, Nash, Browne, Kiira Dosdall, and Kelsey Koelzer had 1 apiece.
The New York Riveters of New Jersey rise to 5-0-0 in the league while the Whale drop to 2-3. The Whale host the Pride next week and the Riveters host the Beauts.
(This is a not exhaustive very imperfect list of noticed plays that might not make the score sheet. It is very possible a player has far more of any sort of play than are noticed in the heat of action. It is what it is. Read these more as a player had “at least” what is noted here. Note the language is a bit stilted, I’m trying to figure out how to make the information flow better.)
Broke in to set up a Ketchum scoring chance and another time kept the puck from escaping the zone setting up a Koelzer shot. Also grabbed the puck in the offensive zone and her shot set up a rebound try from Ketchum. Her stickhandling allowed Nash to get a scoring opportunity. Acquired the puck in the Whale zone at other times. Defensively came up with the puck a few times and enabled zone exits.
Was a major force in the zone entry department and she broke in on net multiple times as well. Though she only had 2 shots she played a role in many more than that.
She had a role in multiple scoring opportunities whether it was coming up with the puck in the Whale zone, fighting it in on a zone entry, or more smooth skates in. She tried to deflect in a teammate’s shot nearly putting it in the goal. She also prevented the biscuit from leaving the Whale blue line and shooting it back in. Defensively one of her blocks pushed the puck entirely out of the Riveters end. Additionally she snagged the disc several times in the Riveters end and facilitated getting it out.
Had multiple zone entries, including leading to a Ketchum scoring attempt. She snatched the puck in the Whale end, and also had a few exits from the Riveters zone with the puck. This includes an even strength clear from the goal mouth.
Was incredibly effective at moving the disc into the offensive zone including when she corralled the puck in the Rivs zone and skated it out and in sending it over to Nash. She also had a break in on net other than her goal. This was in addition to several times she moved it away from danger in the Riveters zone. Her blocked shot came very late in the game to help preserve Fitzgerald’s shutout.
She came up with the puck in front of the Whale net for a great scoring chance. She also grabbed the puck in the zone and sent it over to Dosdall for a chance. Defensively she maneuvered the puck out of the Riveters end including feeding it up to Russo who carried it in.
Had many noticed puck acquisitions in the Whale end to start up offensive efforts. He blocked a shot very late in the game as the Riveters didn’t stop blocking shots even in garbage time.
Offensively kept the puck within the Whale zone multiple time, including for a shot. Also disrupted the Whale attack, and at another point came up with the biscuit in her own zone and started it away.
Prevented the Whale from clearing their zone many times throughout the game, including to generate a scoring chance. She also stole the puck in the Riveters area and sent it out to Rafter who carried it in and at another instance acquired it and got it out to Lawler who skated it away from D-zone. On the penalty kill she blocked a Whale setup pass.
In addition to her goal she was active a lot offensively creating many scoring chances for herself or for Burke or other teammate’s.
Had several zone entries including on the power play, also prevented the puck from escaping the zone.
Defensively she stole the puck from a Whale player and started it out of the zone, also moved the puck to Russo for another zone exit. She disrupted a Connecticut zone entry as well.
Had multiple scoring chances on the power play. One of her even strength shots was headed in a good direction but hit the post. Defensively she obtained the puck many times in the D-zone and sent it away or moved it out herself.
Generated at least four scoring chances, including on the power play. Defensively also disrupted at least two Whale scoring opportunities and at other times collected the puck for exits.
Had numerous entries into Whale territory to start up the offense including after intercepting a pass in the neutral zone for a scoring opportunity, and another time when she had to fight it into the zone. She also swiped the puck from a CT player in their own end.
Grabbed the puck in the neutral zone and fed it to Packer for a shot in the zone. Defensively got to the puck several times and started extricating it from that side of the ice.
As usual had plenty of zone entries, including multiple times when she brought it out of the Riveters end initially. This included when her block knocked the puck out of the zone and she carried it all the way down. She also grabbed the puck several times when it was already in the Riveters end. On the penalty kill snagged disc and fed it to Roesler who cleared it.
Had several zone entries including for opportunities on net. She also followed up a puck acquisition in the Whale side and sent it to a teammate who brought it in for a scoring try. On the penalty kill she grabbed the puck and skated to the Rivs end for a short handed attempt.
Had several D-zone exits including when she sent it to Goldsmith for a zone entry.
In her first game she disrupted a Riveters pass on a scoring chance. She also got to a puck in the Whale side and sent it to Baribeau for a zone extraction.
She snatched the puck in the neutral zone and carried it across the Riveters blue line. She also came up with the disc in enemy territory and shot it.
Often obtained the puck in the Whale defensive zone and coordinated the move out including setting up some zone entries. Several times she disrupted the Riveters offensive attack. She also got a stick on a puck to keep it within the opposing zone and shot it on net. On the power play she had multiple shots and kept the puck from escaping from the point, and on the penalty kill had a clear.
As expected she had a variety of voyages into the Riveters side including for several scoring chances. She also followed up a block in her own zone by getting the puck out and in for a shot. She also used another zone exit to get it to Fluke for her move on net.
Faber brought the puck with her into the opponent’s end, and also got to the puck within the Whale area and got it to Fluke who brought it in.
She led numerous ventures across the line into Riveters country often for potential scoring opportunities. This included a feed to Orlando for a scoring attempt. She also from farther back sent it to Faber for a zone entry. She also kept the puck within the offensive zone for a team opportunity. Defensively she stole it from a Riveter and sent it to teammates who exited with it. She also had other departures from the D-zone including when she had to fight the Rivs across the line, and a disruption of an opponent’s zone entry.
Her several zone exits included passing it up to Boulier for a zone entry. She also kept the biscuit inside the Rivs zone leading to a Mock chance on net.
She disrupted several Riveters attack attempts, also stole it from one of their players and initiated the exit. She also sent it to Battaglino who carried the puck all the way down to attack.
Despite only 2 shots she had a variety of looks throughout the game from her perch back in the Riveters zone including on the power play. Additionally she got to pucks in the opposing end multiple times leading to team attempts on the goal. Several times she also didn’t let the puck escape the offensive end. Defensively she robbed a Riveter and cleared it on a penalty kill and had even strength zone exits.
Intercepted a Riveters pass and sent it out of the zone eventually leading to Babstock and Battaglino’s break in on Fitzgerald. Also fed the puck to Boulier for a zone entry leading to a Doyle attempt. At other times had zone exits, and skated the puck in during a power play.
Multiple zone entries and scoring chances is her norm and she also got to pucks within the opposing end as well. Defensively her collection of a puck and the ensuing skate up ice led to a Doyle attempt. She had at least one attempt on the power play. Another zone exit of hers resulted in Orlando taking the attack in.
Was especially noticeable on defense having a variety of journeys away from Rossman’s net. She also disrupted a Riveters scoring try. A steal in the neutral zone allowed her to head in for a scoring opportunity.