The Metropolitan Riveters are Isobel Cup Champions.
Regular season MVP Alexa Gruschow scored the only goal of the game 5:33 into the first period with an unbelievable second effort. Gruschow, an RPI alumna, found a way to lift the puck past Amanda Leveille while she was airborne and horizontal to the ice. It was an epic goal in what proved to be an unforgettable Isobel Cup Final.
All year long it was evident that the Beauts and Riveters had a gift for getting under each other’s skin, but things took a dangerous turn late in the first period when Sarah Casorso boarded a defenseless Madison Packer in the corner. Packer was down on the ice for over a minute after the collision, but found a way to play through the pain and return for the second period. Casorso was given a two minute minor for hitting from behind and a 10 minute misconduct. Thankfully, that was as ugly as things got in a game that had fans in attendance sitting on the edge of their seat all night.
The Beauts tilted the ice in their favor for stretches of the second and third period, but the Riveters kept punching back with fast breaks generated by their speed and transition game. The majority of Buffalo’s best chances were shots and rebounds from within a few feet of the net, whereas the Riveters’ best chances came on the rush. At the end of 60 minutes of play the Beauts out-shot the Riveters 21-18, but Buffalo’s 11-game winning streak had come to an end.
“I can’t say enough about [this team] and how proud I am to be their coach and coach them, and not just this year, but from the inaugural season,” Riveters’ head coach Chad Wiseman told the Ice Garden through a grin. “They earned this. They earned this tonight, from Fitzy to our D. I thought it was a great hockey game and great entertainment on both sides. I thought the momentum switched sides back and forth quite often — maybe a little too much for my liking, but at the end of the day [they] earned it and they got the win.”
Wiseman, who was soaked after having water dumped on him by his players, wasn’t the only Riveters coach who was proud of the team’s performance.
“We felt like we deserved it,” Riveters’ assistant coach Lorna Cook told the Ice Garden. “Going into this game we wanted to play the way we did when we started off the season. We made sure we were making good, smart, simple plays. I didn’t think it would be 1-0, but I think that just speaks to this team and the character that they have. They just kept battling and they definitely deserve it.”
There’s almost no room for error in a single elimination playoff final, but when the Riveters did make mistakes Katie Fitzgerald was ready to clean things up for her team. Fitzgerald stopped all 34 shots she faced in 120 minutes of playoff hockey, posting back-to-back shutouts. She earned Playoff MVP honors for her sensational play over the past two weeks. All of her teammates were lavishing Fitzgerald with praise in postgame interviews, but it was defender Michelle Picard who summed up the goaltender’s performance best.
“Oh my goodness Fitzy was unbelievable tonight, just rock solid — as she’s been all year long,” the alternate captain said while her teammates were cheering and whooping around her, parading the Isobel Cup. “She’s just unbelievable.”
Fitzgerald, as always, was humble when speaking to the media on the ice after celebrating with her teammates and lifting and kissing the Isobel Cup.
“I know we went through a bit of a slump in the second half of the season, but the moment the team turned it around I started to feel that [too]. I just started not putting pressure on myself, and I think we all did the same thing. We took it period by period and tried to win each period the best [we could] and enjoy [it], because its the best time of year. Playoffs are such hard fought, competitive games with high-pressure situations that are the most fun to be in. To be able to come out on top was just the cherry on top.”
Other publications have already written about this team’s journey from the 2015-16 season, but so much of that story remains unsaid. The hours of travel and the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that paved the way to this moment are immeasurable. It’s hard to think of more deserving champions than the Riveters’ core four of Ashley Johnston, Kiira Dosdall, Bray Ketchum, and Madison Packer who have all been with the team since its inception. Fittingly enough, they were the first four Riveters to touch the Isobel Cup.
No Riveters fan will ever forget NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan asking Johnston to accept the Isobel Cup at center ice or the face that Stretch made when she carried it to her ecstatic teammates. Last night’s 1-0 victory was as poetic as it was powerful for the home team. The Riveters played hard, they played honest, they played through pain, they trusted in their systems, and above all else they played for each other.
They played Riveters hockey.
The 2018 Isobel Cup Champion Metropolitan Riveters
Kimberly Sass, Sarah Bryant, Katie Fitzgerald
Jenny Ryan, Courtney Burke, Ashley Johnston, Kiira Dosdall, Michelle Picard, Kelsey Koelzer
Erika Lawler, Tatiana Rafter, Rebecca Morse, Alexa Gruschow, Hillary Crowe, Madison Packer, Bray Ketchum, Rebecca Russo, Miye D’Oench, Cheeky Herr, Lauren Wash, Kelly Nash, Harrison Browne, Lindsey Hylwa