The Metropolitan Riveters began the 2017-18 season with an 11-game winning streak, and in so doing established themselves as early favorites for the 2018 Isobel Cup. A big part of the Riveters’ dominance in the first half of the season was the team’s unrelenting offense. The Riveters scored four or more goals in nine straight games before the Boston Pride held them to just two goals on January 21.
Since that game the Riveters offense has averaged 3.0 goals per game. That’s quite a drop from the 4.17 goals per game Chad Wiseman’s team was averaging at the NWHL’s Holiday Break. Even more tellingly the Riveters’ shots for per 60 minutes (all strengths) in the last four games is 29.20; at the Holiday Break Metropolitan’s SF60 was a peerless 33.57.
The biggest reason for that dip in production is the absence of star winger Miye D’Oench. D’Oench sustained a leg injury while playing for Team NWHL against Team USA in mid-January and she’s been out of the lineup ever since.
#NWHLNews: Spoke to @Riveters coach Chad Wiseman who indicated D’Oench is likely not available for the team before the Isobel Cup Playoffs.— Erica L. Ayala (@elindsay08) February 18, 2018
Also noted Lawler is scheduled to return to the lineup for the next home game against Buffalo.
Before D’Oench suffered her injury she was one of the NWHL’s top scorers. She had ten primary points in her first eight games of the season. Even with all the time that she’s missed D’Oench is still tied for fifth on the Riveters in shots. Replacing her role in the offense is next to impossible.
However, last Sunday the Riveters found a way to score four goals in a game for the first time since January 20; and they did it without D’Oench and Erika Lawler in the lineup.
“We were all on the same page today,” Rebecca Russo told the Ice Garden after the Riveters 4-2 win over the Whale. “We came to this rink sharing the same goal. We really played a full 60 minutes today and I think the scoreboard really showed that.”
Bray Ketchum is one of the Riveters forwards who has stepped up in recent weeks. Throughout her NWHL career she has found a way to make an impact in the offensive zone regardless of who she’s skating with. Ketchum has two goals in her last four games, including a go-ahead goal on Sunday that was set up by Russo.
“I think we’re coming together as a team,” Bray Ketchum told The Ice Garden. “We’ve had a rough patch — that loss in Buffalo was tough after winning 11 straight. We’re really barring down, playing as a team. There are no individuals on this team; we’re playing as a group and sticking to our systems.”
Getting four on the board against the Whale was a step in the right direction, but the Riveters need to find a way to get finish more often outside of the power play. Wiseman’s team has been outscored at evens five to three over the last three games, which is a surprising figure for a team that has five of the nine top even strength goal scorers this year.
The Riveters will need players like Russo, Ketchum, Gruschow, and Madison Packer to continue generating scoring chances with D’Oench out. With the Olympics over Lawler is also expected to return to the lineup shortly. Her numbers may not jump off of the page, but she’s quietly been a key cog to Metropolitan’s offense this year.
Tomorrow afternoon the Riveters are hoping to make a statement against the visiting Buffalo Beauts; the only team that has beaten them this year. But beating Buffalo is no small task. Since the Pegulas became the owners of the NWHL’s northernmost franchise, the defending Isobel Cup Champions have yet to lose a game. If the Riveters want to put an end to Buffalo’s streak, they will need to find a way to make a mark at even strength.