We are now less than a week away from two exhibition games between the United States Women’s National Team and the best that the NWHL has to offer. And, as it turns out, nearly half of the best that the NWHL has to offer are Metropolitan Riveters.
That percentage is not a result of favoritism or bias. The Riveters are undeniably the best team in the NWHL at the midway point of the season. The team that calls Newark home is 8-0-0 this season and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Team NWHL@CTWhale_NWHL: Babstock@BuffaloBeauts: Edney, Buie, Jones, Scamurra@TheBostonPride: Bender, Gagliardi, Ott, Dempsey, Field, Smelker, Trivigno@Riveters: Burke, Dosdall, Koelzer, Picard, Ryan, Fitzgerald, D'Oench, Gruschow, Lawler, Russo— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) December 28, 2017
Leading Team NWHL will be 2014 Sochi silver medalist Michelle Picard. Picard, one of the league’s best defenders, was named the captain of Team NWHL on December 29. The second-year pro is no stranger to wearing the captain’s “C” on the front of her jersey. Picard captained the Harvard Crimson for two seasons after the Sochi Olympics.
“I’m certainly honored to make the team and, secondly, to be the captain,” Picard told the Ice Garden. “We have a great group going, and I’m excited to go play and see what we can do to help the U.S. national team prepare in any way that we can.”
The success of the Riveters defense has been a story for the past two seasons. But this season, Metropolitan fans have also been treated to some real offensive fireworks. The top five scorers in the NWHL are all Riveters, and second-year pro Rebecca Russo is one of them. She’s embracing this rare opportunity to play Team USA with both arms.
“The Olympics come every four years and I know I might not ever get this opportunity again,” Russo told the Ice Garden. “For USA Hockey to want to play Team NWHL — they think that we’re good enough to play against them and give them a good competition a few weeks before the Olympics. It’s a huge honor, and I’m excited to represent the NWHL.”
At the beginning of last season Russo was an unheralded rookie out of Boston University. One year and four months later, she’s become one of the NWHL’s most engaging and entertaining stars. The charismatic winger is a prime example of the talent that the NWHL has even with nine of its players from last season skating with the national team.
The two-game series against the Olympic team will serve as a unique opportunity for Russo, Picard, and their fellow Riveters on Team NWHL to measure their game against the very best. As anyone who has seen Russo play might expect, the New York native can’t wait to get on the ice in Florida.
“I’m excited to see what [Team USA] has to offer,” Russo shared. “I’ve been watching the Time is Now Tour and it’s exciting to watch them, but it’s going to be more exciting to play against them. We’re going to give it our all, and they’re going to give it their all. I think we’re going to see some close, fast-paced games.”
Although this series might feel something like an All-Star Game, the players involved don’t see things that way. For Team USA, playing against Team NWHL represents a unique and invaluable opportunity to iron out any kinks before the Olympics begin in February.
“This is going to be very intense,” Picard explained. “The group that we have going is competitive ... we want to show what we can do. This is a great opportunity to show what the league has to offer. The national team is getting ready for the biggest games of their lives, so we know they’re going to bring their best. So we’re going to bring our best.”
Picard and Team NWHL will need to bring their best to hold their own against the team that won gold at the 2017 Women’s World Championship and the 2017 Four Nations Cup. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t also have some fun while they’re down in Florida.
“I’m excited to be able to play against Team USA and see my old roommate and good friend Amanda Kessel,” Russo shared. “My mom, dad, and brother are coming down. They’re going to play some golf and then see me play against the U.S. Olympic team. What’s better than that?”