It’s just one more day before Riveters fans finally get to celebrate the 2018 Isobel Cup Championship with their team.
The NWHL Championship banner will raise twice over the weekend, first at Prudential Center and then again at its permanent home at the Barnabas Health Hockey House.
It’s a moment three years in the making for players like Kiira Dosdall, who now is one of two original Riveters on the current roster.
“It’s going to be a really special occasion,” Dosdall told The Ice Garden after practice Thursday night. The Riveters got their first of 15 wins (regular season and postseason) last October in the home area of their brother team, the New Jersey Devils.
Dosdall called the 4-1 win over the Boston Pride, “something I’ll never forget.” To have the chance to do it again and see the championship banner raised will be even more memorable.
“Getting to raise that banner that we worked so hard for last year with all of our teammates who retired in the stands [along with] our family and friends, I couldn’t be more excited.”
Last season’s MVP Alexa Gruschow, who scored the game-winning goal in the Isobel Cup Final, is also excited to return to “The Rock”, “I know we’re all really pumped up about it and I think it will be a great motivating factor,” said the RPI alumna.
Getting back to Riveters hockey
Unlike last season, the Riveters are winless in three games to start the season. Gruschow and the team hope the support and celebration of the success of last season will be a positive factor.
“It’s our home and [in] the big arena, so [it will be] exciting with all those fans and hopefully an electric, loud atmosphere which will get us going,” said Gruschow.
However, she and her teammates know getting back to Riveters hockey extends beyond returning to play in front of their fans for the first time this season.
The Riveters are dealing with a few key absences which, in part, have lead to a lot of early experimentation. Miye D’Oench — who assisted Gruschow’s game-winning goal — is away through early November working on a political campaign in Kentucky. Additionally, the team will be without the services of Courtney Burke, who is out with an upper body injury.
After practice, Coach Velischek told @SherryDarlingNJ and me Courtney Burke is dealing with an upper body injury. Sounds like she is weeks away from rejoining the team.— Erica L. Ayala (@elindsay08) October 19, 2018
“[Hockey] is a game of mistakes and the teams that make the least is going to probably win,” said first year Riveters head coach Randy Velischek. The team is 0-3 to start, in his mind, due to mental mistakes. Fixable errors mixed with key players out and a new coach have certainly contributed to the Riveters slow start.
New season, new team
Interestingly, Velischek does not expect his team to score a lot of goals this season. “We’re not a good scoring team,” said the former NHL defenseman. “We’ll have to adjust our game to that. We’re not going to score a lot of goals from what I can tell.”
While the league has improved overall, it is hard to imagine a team that scored 64 goals last season will drop off in productivity so significantly.
Per even-strength.com, the Riveters are projected to score four goals per game. In three games, they have score two goals and allowed 12. Only the Connecticut Whale have scored fewer goals this season.
Velischeck is still experimenting with lines and chemistry, the latter being his biggest adjustment. He is in communication with his predecessor Chad Wiseman, but getting to know his players on his own is something he looks forward to doing.
However, there is little time to dwell on the past. Velischek will lean on leaders like Dosdall & Gruschow to aid the transition, as well as newcomers like defender Chelsea Ziadie.
“She is a revelation,” Velischek told The Ice Garden on Thursday night. Fans may see her step in at forward from time to time.
Inheriting the history of the defending champions and being asked to be a two-way player for a team struggling to find the back of the net is a tall order. Yet, Harvard alumna takes great pride in the opportunity.
“I am really happy that I’m on this team,” Ziadie told The Ice Garden before practice on Thursday. “Every single team is going to give us their best every single game.”
If the opposition is focused on the past, it’s not something the 2018-19 Riveters are too focused on. “There’s a lot of talk about, ‘Last season, we did this. The Riveters were that.’ The reality is, we’re a new team this year.”
Ziadie agrees with her coach and veteran teammates that getting to disciplined, Riveters hockey is the goal. “We’re all on the same page right now. We all want the same thing, and we’re ready to get things going in a positive direction.”
Once the true north of this team is found, what version of the Riveters will we see?
That is to be determined, but for Ziadie, the sky is the limit. “Just because we’re a new team this year doesn’t mean we can’t be even better than last year.”
The personnel is there; it’s just a matter of how much time the new-look Riveters will need to find their stride.
The Riveters will reveal their championship banner tomorrow ahead of their first of two games against the Minnesota Whitecaps this weekend. The teams will play at the Prudential Center at 2:00 p.m. ET on Saturday and 3:00 p.m. ET at the Hockey House on Sunday.