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NWHL Recap: Week 1

The NWHL season got underway with a historic game

Michelle Jay

Riveters defeat Pride, 4-1

Riveters goals: Brown (1) - SHG, D’Oench (1), Gruschow (1), Russo (1) - ENG

Pride goal: Mangene (1)

The 2017-18 NWHL season kicked off in historic fashion at the Prudential Center, the home rink of the New Jersey Devils, with a game between the Boston Pride and the Metropolitan Riveters. The Riveters, thanks in large part to some stellar goaltending from Katie Fitzgerald, prevailed over the Pride for the second straight regular season game after spoiling Boston’s undefeated record at the end of the 2016-17.

The Riveters found ways to put pressure on Boston’s new look defense at even strength after the tide turned when Harrison Browne scored the first goal of the new season on a Boston power play. The home team led 3-1 before Rebecca Russo added an empty net goal to seal the Riveters victory.

Player of the Game

Fitzgerald’s 30 save performance was likely the highlight of the NWHL’s opening weekend. The Pride looked dangerous on the power play and had a few big chances on the rush, but Fitzgerald stood tall for the Riveters. She stopped several stuff-in attempts on the doorstep and foiled all 10 of Haley Skarupa’s shots. Fitzgerald is off to a great start in defending her title as the NWHL’s Goaltender of the Year.

Goaltender Katie Fitzgerald tracking the puck during the Riveters home opener at the Prudential Center in a game against the Boston Pride.
Michelle Jay

Beauts defeat Whale, 3-2

Beauts goals: Accursi (1) - PPG, Shureb (1), Accursi (2)

Whale goals: Klienbach (1), Faber (1)

The Whale scored two goals 10 second apart in the third period of their home opener on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough. The defending Isobel Cup Champion Beauts out-shot Connecticut 37 to 22 in addition to drawing eight penalties to the Whale’s two. The Beauts underwent a lot of offseason changes, but they looked strong and consistent, particularly in the offensive zone. Buffalo had the first three goals of the game, including the first power play goal of the new NWHL season.

The Whale’s lack of star power was definitely noticeable on Saturday. Kelly Babstock, Connecticut’s resident star forward, picked up a primary assist on Grace Klienbach’s first NWHL goal. Moving forward Connecticut is going to have to rely more on chemistry and systems than individual talent.

It wasn’t all bad news for the Whale. In addition to the heart that Connecticut displayed by scoring two quick goals to get back into the game, rookie goaltender Sydney Rossman made 34 saves in her NWHL debut. The Whale will need her to be a big contributor this year.

Player of the Game

Beauts rookie forward Taylor Accursi scored two goals, put four shots on net and took two minor penalties in her first NWHL game. It’s safe to stay that she stood out. Accursi is one of the Beauts rookies this season. She is one of several Canadian-born players that Buffalo will need to help carry the offense in the 2017-18 season.