With many of last season’s roster returning, expectations were high for the Metropolitan Riveters. On paper, it looked as though the NWHL may have its first repeat Isobel Cup champions. Currently the team sits at 2-6, with 4 points - good enough for fourth overall.
As the Metropolitan Riveters are the first team to reach the midpoint of their season, we’ve decided to grade how their season has gone so far.
The Riveters offense has looked lost all season. Their season began with a five-game losing streak in which they put up only seven goals. New coach Randy Velischek is still figuring out the team and how to use them. Lines have been inconsistent. The offensive plays have been predictable and easily countered by opposing defenses. Costly turnovers have lead to numerous opponent odd-man rushes. The Riveters’ power play has been nonexistent all season.
Kristin Lewicki has been on every line with several different linemates. Erika Lawler was moved from center to wing for the first seven games. Only three players have multiple goals this season: Audra Richards (5), Madison Packer (3), and Rebecca Russo (2). After averaging 4+ goals a game with the almost the same roster, the Riveters have failed to score more than three goals in a single game this year.
Returning from the Four Nations break, this team is starting to show signs of life. Miye D’Oench returned after working for an election campaign in Kentucky. She’s on a line with Alexa Gruschow and Audra Richards and they’ve shown flashes of last season’s brilliance. Hopefully D’Oench’s return will help jump start the Riveters’ offense.
The Riveters have given up a league-worst 30 goals this season. They gave up 23 in the month of October alone. The defensive core is largely the same from last season with the addition of Chelsea Ziadie and Lexi Slattery.
Why have they struggled?
They aren’t playing as aggressively this season as they did last season. The defense appears to be playing the puck not the player, giving opponents space and meaning they no longer do they have to crash the net in order to get shots off. Instead, they’re allowed to take their time to set up shots. Several times defensive miscues have left players with an advantage leading to a goal.
The players seem to be lost in the new system and the team is paying for it - often playing from behind. Velischek needs to find out exactly why this is and how to adjust if the Riveters wish to return to their winning ways.
Katie Fitzgerald’s stats this season are unimpressive. The former Goalie of the Year is posting a .865 SV% with a 3.66 GAA through seven games. Teams have been able to take their time and find the cracks in the Brick Wall due, in part, to the inconsistency of the Riveters’ play. She’s still seeing the puck well and continues making the jaw-dropping saves she’s known for. The defense, at times, fails her by leaving a forward unattended where they can take a pass for an easy goal.
The Riveters continue to be a work in progress. At times they show flashes of brilliance, reminding everyone just how they won the Isobel Cup. Other times they look frustrated and reminiscent of the 2015-16 team who were happy to keep the game close.
The team has the tools to make another run at the Cup. Randy Velischek has to learn how to use them accordingly. Until he does, the Riveters and their fans will be in for a long season.