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NWHL 2017-18 Season Preview: Metropolitan Riveters

The re-branded Riveters are back on the ice after making huge strides last season. Could this be their year to win the Isobel Cup?

The Metropolitan Riveters warming up in a preseason game against Team Russia at the Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark, New Jersey.
Mike Murphy

The New York Riveters enter the season as … non-existent. Yes, that’s right folks! Get used to a new name, a new partnership, and a new look for the re-branded Metropolitan Riveters.

The NWHL announced a historic three-year partnership with the New Jersey Devils just ahead of the third season which kicks-off this Saturday with a Riveters-Devils doubleheader at the Prudential Center. The league announced that trailblazing broadcaster Sherry Ross will be on the call as the Riveters host the Boston Pride for the first time on NHL ice at 1:30 p.m. Needless to say, the hype is real this season for the Riveters.

Look Back at Last Season

The Riveters brought in a lot of new faces, 16 new faces to be exact, including three new goalies before last season. Former Olympian Michelle Picard, current US National Team star Amanda Kessel and St. Cloud State goalie Katie Fitzgerald were among the noteworthy new faces in the Riveters locker room.

Katie Fitzgerald of the Metropolitan Riveters standing tall in the goal crease of the Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark, New Jersey.
Mike Murphy

Despite a much improved defense, and a lot of improved team speed brought about by rookies Rebecca Russo and Miye D’Oench, the Riveters struggled to bring it all together in the first half of the season. After the All-Star break, Kessel returned from a lower body injury and helped the Riveters to an 8-7-3 finish. The second place finish in the standings was a dramatic improvement from the team’s performance in the inaugural season.

The regular season ended with the Riveters snapping the Boston Pride’s 15-game winning streak ahead of the Isobel Cup Semifinals. Alas, the breakers of the Boston streak could not take advantage of the second seed and home ice advantage when the playoffs began. For the second season, the Buffalo Beauts - eventual 2017 Isobel Cup Champions - eliminated the league’s second-best team to advance to the Isobel Cup Final. It was a bitter ending to a successful 2016-17 Riveters campaign.

Season Prediction

The Riveters are likely to finish second behind the Pride again this season. The overall speed and defensive ability of the team appear to have improved again, but the team still struggles - based on two preseason games - to maintain consistency for a full 60 minutes. Erika Lawler and Harrison Browne are both veteran players and newcomers to this team. Expect them to become leaders and compliment the current leadership core of captain Ashley “Stretch” Johnston as well as Kiira Dosdall, Bray Ketchum and Picard.

Metropolitan Riveters captain Ashley Johnston is a mechanical engineer off the ice and one of the NWHL’s premier shutdown defenders on it.
Pat McCarthy

Offseason moves

Unlike last season, the Riveters are the team with the least amount of attrition going into the new season. Key losses include Kessel to the USWNT’s centralization and star center Janine Weber to the Boston Pride. Korean goalie Sojung Shin, owner of the second-ever Riveters shutout, is also centralized with her national team.

Returning Riveters

  • Sarah Bryant - goalie
  • Courtney Burke - defender
  • Tatiana Rafter - forward
  • Rebecca Morse - forward/defender
  • Ashley Johnston (C) - defender
  • Alexa Gruschow - forward
  • Madison Packer - forward
  • Bray Ketchum (A) - forward
  • Rebecca Russo - forward
  • Miye D’Oench - forward
  • Cheeky Herr - forward
  • Kiira Dosdall (A) - defender
  • Michelle Picard (A) - defender
  • Katie Fitzgerald - goalie
  • Kelsey Koezer - defender

Newcomers

  • Erika Lawler - first-year forward | Wisconsin University, former Olympian
  • Jenny Ryan - rookie defender | Wisconsin University
  • Kelly Nash - rookie forward | Wisconsin University
  • Harrison Browne- forward | free agent signing from the Buffalo Beauts
  • Lindsey Hylwa - rookie forward | RPI

Breakout players

Kelsey Koelzer
Koelzer hardly broke in her gloves before her true rookie season was over last year. The versatile defender from Princeton can take over games; and she likely will for the Riveters. The key for Koelzer will be finding a way to open up her game without pressing too much. We didn’t see her at her best in the playoffs last year. Hopefully the former first overall pick finds a way to put it together in season two.

Erika Lawler
Former Olympian Lawler was another preseason standout for the new-look Riveters. She brings a relentless, much-needed energy to a Riveters team that can sometimes get caught playing at their opponents’ pace, as opposed to their own. Lawler should help replace some of the center depth the Riveters loss with the departure of Weber.

Erika Lawler of the Metropolitan Riveters battling for the puck after a faceoff in a preseason game against the Russian National Team.
Mike Murphy

Three must-watch games

Oct. 28 v Pride
First game against Boston since #BeatingTheStreak, the return of Janine Weber and the first-ever NWHL game played on NHL ice. How many reasons do you need to get out to this game or tune in on Twitter? Seriously.

Nov. 4 v Riveters
Isobel Cup Champion Harrison Browne takes on his former team during the first neutral ice game of the 2017-18 NWHL season.

Feb. 18 v Whale
The final game against the Connecticut Whale. The Pod is a young team with the potential to pull together much like the 2016-17 Riveters. Should be an interesting game when both teams are in mid-season form.

#HotTakes

The Riveters will be an unstoppable force in the league this year when … they learn to play their game consistently. There will be some growing pains this year, but it looks like the Riveters have a stacked blue line, a promising group of forwards, and the defending Goaltender of the Year in net. The Riveters success this season will come down to the team finding consistency.