The New York Riveters won four games in the entire 2015-16 season. Despite this, the franchise — thanks to players with a heart of gold and a kick-ass logo — gained a dedicated fan base in season one. A core of that fan base followed the team to New Jersey in 2016-17. A team with only one 2014 Olympian (Nana Fujimoto) soon bolstered its roster with the likes of 2014 silver medalists Michelle Picard and Amanda Kessel.
We won the first last place team ever cup! @NYRiveters pic.twitter.com/73noVawrm4— Amber Moore (@aimoore1221) March 13, 2016
By season two, the team that embraced their first last place team status was now revived with well known names from within the league and the international level. Head coach Chad Wiseman told The Ice Garden that the pieces of a championship team were in place by season two, but the expectation was to be a true contender by season three. Wiseman and his group of veterans — Bray Ketchum, Kiira Dosdall, Madison Packer, and Ashley Johnston — made good on that timeline.
The season started with the news that the New York Riveters were a thing of the past — literally. Just weeks before the season opener, it was announced that the New Jersey Devils entered into a three-year partnership with the NWHL and the Riveters franchise. The team changed its name to the Metropolitan Riveters and opened the season against the Boston Pride at the Prudential Center, on NHL ice.
The October 28th game was the beginning of a new era for the Riveters and the NWHL. In the opener, free agent signing Harrison Browne scored the first of the Riveters’ 64 total regular season goals. Starting with that triumph on opening night, head coach Chad Wiseman led his team to 11-straight wins. In nine of those wins, the Riveters scored at least four goals, while only conceding 16 of their 30 total goals allowed.
The Riveters were finally figured out by the Buffalo Beauts. The reigning champions clipped the rolling Riveters three times to tie the season series 3-3 headed into the Isobel Cup Playoffs. The two squads seemed destined to meet in the 2018 Isobel Cup Final, and that is exactly what the NWHL got for season three.
The Riveters completed the season just as they had begun it, with a win against Boston. The Riveters then went on to defeat the Connecticut Whale 4-0 in the semi-finals to punch their ticket to the first-ever final appearance in franchise history.
What Went Wrong?
With a record of 13-3-0, not much went wrong for the Riveters. The Riveters weren’t the only team hindered by injuries this year, but they had some big holes in their lineup for stretches of the season. All of the team’s regular season losses happened in the seven weeks that Miye D’Oench was out with a high ankle sprain.
In other words, the Riveters were undefeated when D’Oench was in the lineup. Additionally, the team’s offense scored 43 of their 64 goals with the Harvard alumna on the ice. Despite not receiving a nod to the 2018 All-Star Game, she had one of the most impressive performances of the 2017-18 season. D’Oench had seven goals and six assists in nine games in her second professional season. She also picked up the primary assist on the goal that won this year’s Isobel Cup.
Game of the Year: January 27th, Riveters at Whale
The Riveters played only one overtime game all season. It was in that same game that Kimberly Sass got her first start of her NWHL career. Outside of this year’s NWHL Final, this was the most exciting Riveters game I’ve seen in person.
The Whale registered two early goals against Sass and the Riveters came storming back late in the game, eventually getting the game winning goal with about 30 seconds left in overtime.
Team MVP - Alexa Gruschow
Courtney Burke led the team in assists (2 goals, 17 assists), Madison Packer in goals (10 goals, 8 assists), and the Isobel Cup Final MVP Katie Fitzgerald (.920% SV, 1.87 GA) had a solid season. However, Gruschow was the most consistent player on the Metropolitan Riveters this year.
The 2018 All-Star stayed healthy and played all 16 games and was kept off the scoresheet in only four games. The league MVP’s led her team and the league in points (9 goals, 13 assists). Not to mention, she happened to score the game-winning goal to earn the first Isobel Cup in franchise history.
Standout Rookies - Kelsey Koelzer and Jenny Ryan
The depth of the Riveters roster was a huge contribution to their success throughout the season. While fans got a taste of what to expect from Kelsey Koelzer last year in the playoffs, Jenny Ryan quickly established herself as another standout rookie defender this year. Ryan posted three goals and 13 assists for 16 points in her rookie campaign. No first year player in the NWHL tallied more points than Ryan in 2017-18.
In her first full NWHL season Kelsey Koelzer more than lived up to the hype attached to being a first overall pick. Koelzer was a crucial part of the Riveters’ peerless depth on the blue line skating on a pair with veteran Michelle Picard. She tallied five goals, nine assists (14 points) in 14 regular season games and won co-MVP at the 2018 All-Star Game.