The Riveters have yet to win in regulation and sit just above the Whale at the bottom of the current NWHL standings. Both teams have played five games, and both have four regulation losses. The Riveters also have the highest number of goals-allowed so far this season (28) and are tied with the Pride for first in the league in penalty minutes (66). They are also at the bottom of the league with regards to shooting percentage, just short of 8% (meaning that they score on about 8% of the shots that they take).
Some of this can be attributed to their schedule. The new-look Riveters, with a crop of rookies and a new coach, faced the two highest-scoring teams in the league to start their season (the Pride, the Whitecaps, and then the Pride again). Some may also be attributable to a lack of shots - Madison Packer leads the team in shots with 29, followed closely by rookie Kendall Cornine with 27, but after that there’s a steep drop-off, with Kate Leary coming in third at 15 shots. Packer also leads the team in points with six, while Cornine and Leary have five. The three of them are likely to continue on the path to being the team’s most dangerous scoring threat.
The Riveters will face the Pride again at the end of November and will want to try to stay out of the box - partially because their penalty kill is the second-worst in the league, and partially so that they can try to create more chances.
The Pride are undefeated through seven games, and have played more than any other team in the league so far. They have racked up, on average, 46 shots per game, but have also faced the most shots (234) while maintaining the best goal differential (23). It helps that rookie Lovisa Selander has been incredible so far, with a .949 SV% on 217 shots (the most in the league).
The Pride’s top line has been absolutely lethal. Captain Jillian Dempsey and linemate McKenna Brand each have 13 points through seven games. Brand has also been credited with 55 shots, while Dempsey has been credited with 42. The third member of that line, rookie Christina Putigna, is no slouch either-- she has 11 points and has registered 22 shots of their own. For the math-challenged like myself, that means that the Pride’s top line alone has subjected opposing goalies to 119 shots in seven games. That’s not even taking into account defender Kaleigh Fratkin’s 24 shots on goal, or players like Lexi Laing (9 points) or Emily Fluke (4 goals).
It’s hard to find a downside for this team. Yes, they have 66 penalty minutes, but their penalty kill is running at a smooth 86%, so they can afford it. They also lead the league in faceoff win percentage at 57%. If anything, they need to focus on maintaining this dominance as long as possible.
The Whitecaps are second in the NWHL standings with 7 points. They are the only team other than the Pride with a positive goal differential (+7) and have piled 240 shots onto opposing goalies in their six games so far.
Defender Amanda Boulier leads the team with ten points (a goal and nine assists), and last year’s newcomer of the year Jonna Curtis has nine points. Rookies Nicole Schammel and Sydney Baldwin have nine points as well, providing some depth to a team that needed to find replacements for players like Brandt and Coyne-Schofield. Amanda Leveille continues to impress, boasting a .909 SV%, second in the league for goalies who have played more than 45 minutes.
Somehow, they have the worst faceoff win percentage in the league, hovering around 45%. Otherwise the team looks solid, but they’ll need to figure out the Pride if they want to come out on top. They were swept by the Pride when they visited Boston (3-1, 5-2), and started to slip the second game, where they took more penalties and registered significantly fewer shots.
The Whale sit squarely at the bottom of the standings with one point through five games. They have a -11 goal differential, a power play that can’t seem to score, and a lackluster penalty kill. They definitely need to be shooting more, and they definitely need to stay out of the box to give their goaltender, rookie Sonja Shelly, a chance to breathe. Shelly had a .933 SV% in their last game, and has been trending up since the season started.
That being said, there’s more to them than meets the eye. The Whale have the second-best faceoff percentage in the league at 52%. Rookie Emma Vlasic has won an actually ridiculous 62% of the faceoffs she’s taken this season - and she’s taken over 100. Vlasic, Grace Kleinbach and captain Shannon Doyle are shooting like crazy. Doyle leads the team with six points, followed by Jordan Brickner with five. Rookies Vlasic and Jane Morrisette have each scored two goals, and if the team can keep building momentum, they might be able to string a few wins together.
Of note, the Whale came extremely close to upsetting the Minnesota Whitecaps in their last game. A last-second tripping penalty led to a last-second Jonna Curtis game-winner, but the Whale played a great game and should roll into the next bit of the season feeling good about their potential.
The Beauts are in third place and breathing down the Whitecaps’ necks with six points in five games played. They have a -4 goal differential but they also have the most dominant penalty kill in the league. They’ve killed 90% of the penalties they’ve taken, which is just absurd, especially because that’s not attributable to a lack of penalty minutes (they’re second in the league with 64).
You may already have heard this, but rookie Brooke Stacey is a monster. She has eight points in five games, six of which are goals. She has also scored in situations that allow her team to find a way back into games, including a penalty shot against Lovisa Selander in Boston. She may be leading the charge, but she’s not alone. Rookie defender and alternate captain MJ Pelletier has six points, one of which is an OT-winner. Both Slovak rookies, Lenka Čurmová and Iveta Klimášová, have five points in their first five NWHL games, as does third-year veteran Taylor Accursi.
The long and short of it: they need to shoot more. They’re only averaging 24 shots per game played, and we have proof that when they shoot they’re pretty successful - they’re first in the league as far as shooting percentage goes, converting on 13% of their shots. For reference, the first-place Pride are only shooting at about 11%, which is still pretty crazy. This team is poised to wreak some havoc through the rest of the season if they can keep this up.
Don’t forget you can see our highlights from the first month of the NWHL here!
All stats were taken from the NWHL website or were aggregated by Mike Murphy.