A few months ago, if you asked NWHL fans which team was most likely to lift the 2018 Isobel Cup almost all of them would have said the Metropolitan Riveters. But a lot has changed in the last few months.
The Riveters have lost three straight games to the Buffalo Beauts and have gone 1-3-0 since the beginning of February. Chad Wiseman’s team has not looked the same since Miye D’Oench was injured playing on Team NWHL against Team USA in Florida. Through the first nine games of the season the Riveters’ offense was bulldozing the rest of the league, but lately, the treads have come off.
The Riveters’ most recent loss came last Sunday. For the first time in the 2017-18 season, the opposition held the Rivs to a single goal. However, the home team managed to out-shoot the defending Isobel Cup Champions by a margin of 36 to 25; 25 to 13 in the final two periods. The Riveters may have lost, but spirits were high after the game.
“I thought we played one of the best hockey games we’ve played in awhile,” Wiseman told The Ice Garden. “It’s just one of those games. You walk out of here knowing that you absolutely deserved a better fate. I thought we controlled the majority of the game, we controlled the offensive zone.”
Wiseman’s comments were a far cry from what we heard after the Riveters’ last home loss against the Beauts on February 28. The third year coach accused his team of playing selfish hockey and getting wrapped up in Buffalo’s physical brand of hockey. The Riveters took seven penalties in that game; they took only two last Sunday.
The team’s improved discipline definitely made a difference last weekend. The Riveters came within inches of tying it up several times in the last 30 minutes of the game. MVP front-runner Alexa Gruschow hit the iron twice in the second period alone. But Gruschow and her teammates weren’t frustrated when they faced the media after the game.
The Riveters are not worried. They’re not putting too much importance on finishing the season with a win in Boston; they’re focused on playing their game for a full 60 minutes before they meet the Whale in the Isobel Cup Playoffs.
“We’re not overthinking it,” Gruschow told The Ice Garden. “We’re saying it’s another game, we’re gonna come and bring our ‘A’ game—play our game and do what we do best. We’re not going to make any dramatic changes, put too much weight on it, or put too much pressure on ourselves.”
There’s no reason for the Rivs to make any dramatic changes in how they approach the Pride. They are 4-0-0 against Boston this season and have outscored them 15 to 5 in the season series. In addition, it looks like Miye D’Oench will be back on the ice for the playoffs. She skated with the team in full gear during warm-ups on Sunday and Wiseman said that he’s very hopeful the star winger will be back for the regular season finale.
Understandably, the Riveters’ 1-3-0 record over the last four games has fans worried — remember, this franchise has never won a playoff game. But Wiseman and the Riveters’ leadership group has the team focused on playing their game their way. Heading into the playoffs, Newark’s team has a furrowed brow and their sleeves rolled up. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?