It was another good start for the Riveters on Sunday against the Boston Pride. Bray Ketchum scored the first goal of the game. However, New York’s 1-0 lead would not last, as Boston scored four unanswered goals to win their fourth straight game.
Shots against and stops continue to be a problem for New York. The early coordination seen in the preseason and the first game against Boston have yet to resurface. The difference between the first three games (including the Riveters’ two preseason games) and the last two games is the presence of Amanda Kessel.
Kessel was scratched from the roster again with a lower-body injury. Team USA also announced that Kessel would not join the national team during this week’s camp in preparation for the Four Nations Cup in Finland. It is clear that Amanda Kessel was brought in to be an important part of the Riveters offense. However, she cannot be asked to carry the entire offense.
When a team has a talented star there are always adjustments made to capitalize on their talent. Offensive plays are drawn-up and pairings are made to best utilize elite players. Kessel is that star for New York. The challenge for Chad Wiseman now will be to develop (or execute) his “plan B.” The energy, coordination and unison seen in the preseason games, as well as the first game of the season, has not been a consistent part of the Riveters game without Amanda in the lineup.
If not Kessel, then who?
Janine Weber was also missing from the home opener against the Whale. In the first game, Weber’s aggressive play along the boards earned her the secondary assist on the first Riveters goal of the season. On Sunday, her ability to draw the defense and the goalie out of position gave Weber her first primary assist of the season when she set up Ketchum’s goal. Last season, we saw glimpses of the Weber of Clarkson Cup fame, and early indications are that she is ready to be a key contributor to New York’s success.
Miye D’Oench leads the team with two goals. D’Oench has shown she can attack the net, and playmakers like Weber, Kessel and Madison Packer should help get her more goals as the season progresses. Packer has 14 of the 75 shots on goal for the Riveters and currently averages 4.67 shots on goal per game. As Adam Gavriel of the NWHL stated in his recent By The Numbers report, while Packer has not produced any goals just yet, she won’t be denied for long if she continues to shoot at her current rate.
Puck movement has fallen by the wayside for New York. On Sunday night many noted that the Riveters were packed into the defensive zone. While the Riveters did a much better job playing team defense and supporting Shin, the plan of attack did not materialize into more shot attempts or puck possession for New York.
The offensive opportunities once again came from one shooter attacking the net. The Riveters must send skaters into the offensive zone to corral rebounds and turn them into additional opportunities. New York must trust its systems and take the time to set up their offense.
The difficulty with possession was glaring on the power play. In three chances, the Riveters scored no goals and only attempted three shots. What’s more, it was the Riveters draft pick Alex Carpenter who scored a shorthanded goal to give Boston a 2-1 lead.
We will have a better idea of who the Riveters are when they travel to Buffalo. The teams will face-off for the first time this season after the Four Nations Cup break. What the Riveters can expect to find is a team with a similar constitution as themselves. Both New York teams play with grit and determination.
So, who will be the spark for the Riveters? Last year, Nana Fujimoto’s 61 saves and Bray Ketchum’s decisive third goal earned the team its first win on November 15th. Time will tell who will carry the Riveters into the win column for the first time this season. For now, the Riveters will regroup and the fans will have to wait to see if the break will bode well for the beloved “Rosies”.