In the new documentary “The 2015-16 Boston Pride: A Dream Born with Isobel”, narrator Julia Stiles calls the New York Riveters and the Boston Pride NWHL rivals. She notes, despite the lopsided record (4-2 in favor of Boston), that New York was the only team to defeat the Pride twice in the inaugural season. On Saturday, the two teams faced off for game two of the NWHL Opening Weekend.
While Boston returned a core piece of the original roster, the Riveters have fewer familiar faces. Will Boston, with the addition of Alex Carpenter and Meghan Duggan, continue to dominate the rivalry? Or, will the Riveters, with new young talent led by Amanda Kessel, be able to write a new chapter?
Just over three minutes after the pucked dropped, Gigi Marvin took a shot that Sojung Shin stopped, but didn’t control. Newcomer Alex Carpenter put away the deflection to give Boston an early 1-0 lead.
However, the Riveters responded right back. Janine Weber worked hard along the boards to keep possession of the puck and found Amanda Kessel. Kessel then sent in a pass that Miye D’Oench put away to even the score. Both teams would earn a power play before the close of the first period, but the score remained 1-1.
The Riveters got an early power play, as Gigi Marvin was booked for interference. However, the advantage was quickly neutralized as Kaleigh Fratkin was called for body checking. In 4v4 play, Riveters captain Ashley Johnston sent a long, sailing pass from behind the net to Morgan Fritz-Ward for a breakaway opportunity. Fritz-Ward tried to beat Ott by way of the five hole and was denied. Boston collected the rebound and Zoe Hickel connected with Brianna Decker for the second Pride goal of the match. From there, Boston took command of the period and never relented.
During a Boston power play, Blake Bolden put away her first goal, taking advantage of an unoccupied net. Halfway through the period, Jordan Smelker found Decker for her second goal of the contest, making it 4-1 Boston. Three minutes later, Alyssa Gagliardi made a beautiful pass to find Rachel Llanes, making it 5-1 Boston. The fifth Pride goal marked the end of the night for Shin, she collected 21 saves in her season debut.
With about five minutes left in the period, Riveters rookie defender Milica McMillen netted a power play goal to make it 5-2.
Tatiana Rafter, the former Buffalo Beauts forward, got the scoring started for New York. Rafter’s first goal, and first celly of the season, made it 5-3 Boston within the first 5 minutes of the period. The score would hold until the 15th minute.
New York earned two power plays late in the game, hoping to get within one goal. However, Emily Field scored a shorthanded goal to give Boston a 6-3 lead. New York was unable to respond and dropped the opening game of the season. Boston recorded 34 shots on goal, to the Riveters 23 shots.
The Pride completed opening weekend with a 2-0 record, convincingly protecting their place at the top of the table. As for New York, nine turnovers and other mental errors were costly. “That’s a great hockey team over there,” said Riveters head coach, Chad Wiseman, “you just can’t afford to have any mental lapses.” He contested that there were four minutes in the second period that made all the difference in the game.
While the scoreline may suggest otherwise, the Riveters looked much improved on the ice, with speed and overall puck movement much better than last season. Moving forward, New York will need young talent to step up, and veteran leadership to steady the course.
For Wiseman, Amanda Kessel embodies both qualities, “Her ability, you can’t miss it out there. She brings that work ethic everyday to practice and players look up to her. When (her teammates) see her going like that it pushes the pace of practice and makes our team better.”
Among the expectations from her coach, teammates and the media, Kessel still knows there are things to learn. She’s now been on the receiving end of Team USA talent, such as Decker and Carpenter, and will use the experience to elevate her game, “I get to play with (National Team players) and I don’t really know what’s it like to play against them. I think it was pretty to cool to play against them and learn what they do well and what I can do better against them.”
Overall, the Riveters exhibited more talent on the ice, and the New York resiliency from last season has carried over. Marking in front of the net, especially against Boston, is something that New York will need to master moving forward. Additionally, key players like Fritz-Ward and Fratkin must continue to create opportunities and stay on the ice, not in the box.
“The mistakes that we made are fixable,” said Rafter, “that’s a big thing, going into practice this week.” With the upcoming week to regroup and tighten up, the Riveters hope to earn the first win of the season on home ice. The Riveters return to action on Sunday October 16 at home against the Connecticut Whale.