This season, we’ve already seen a number of NWHL veterans seize their opportunity to step into a larger role for their respective teams. One such veteran is Metropolitan Riveters’ defender Rebecca Morse.
Morse entered the 2019-20 season with three goals and a single assist (secondary) in 30 games. For a player who scored at least 14 points in three of her four seasons at Providence College, that was a somewhat underwhelming total. However, those boxcar stats don’t tell half the story.
The skater known to fans as “Moose” rarely had opportunities to display her puck skills in her first three seasons with the Riveters. She was Wiseman’s duct tape in her first two years and was mired with defensive zone starts — as was the rest of the team — under Velischek. Looking back now, it’s entirely possible that Morse was unable to shake the label of being a depth player after establishing herself as Wiseman’s favorite Black Ace in the 2016-17 season.
“Moose will do anything for this team,” former teammate Bray Ketchum said of Morse in 2018. “From Day One, she’s been like that. She’s a great kid. She comes here ready to play and whenever she gets the opportunity, she’s ready to go. I think it was hard for her to start on ‘D’ and go to forward. We’re all trying to get used to one another on forward, but she’s done a good job.”
Things are different this year. Moose is back playing her natural position and was the team’s best defender in October.
Morse’s strength has been evident since she entered the league as a rookie, but this year she’s showing more of the puck skills that made her the Friars’ second-highest scoring defender in her junior season. She’s been making a statement with her play on the blue line.
Morse is leading the Riveters’ blue line with 2.0 SOG/GP; before 2019-20, her career SOG/GP was 0.9. The Rivs’ new assistant captain has two goals — including an OT-winner — and two assists in five games to start the 2019-20 season. More importantly, she’s been on the ice for more 5-on-5 GF (Goals For) than any other Riveters defender.
Head coach Ivo Mocek deserves credit for recognizing Morse’s potential in the offensive zone and putting her in a position to use those skills. She’s leading the Rivs’ blue line in shots and points and is one of five NWHL defenders with two or more assists on the power play. In other words, she’s making plays on a consistent basis and proving to be much more than a role player.
The Riveters were last on the ice on Oct. 27. In that game, Morse was paired with original NWHLer Kiira Dosdall. Last season, Dosdall had one assist in 10 games — a shocking total for a defender who had five primary assists on the power play in 2017-18. However, it’s important to note that Dosdall was by no means alone in her lean production for last year’s Riveters. Kelsey Koelzer, a first overall pick and an All-Star Game co-MVP, was scoreless in 13 GP and Olympic silver medalist Erika Lawler had one assist in 10 GP.
Moving forward, the pairing of Morse-Dosdall has the potential to emerge as the most potent pair in the offensive zone for the Riveters. With Dosdall’s gift for setting up one-timers, Morse and her big shot could also prove to be a weapon on the power play.
All data courtesy of NWHL.zone, HockeyEastOnline.com, and the author’s own tracking.
Disclosure: the author of this piece is currently employed by the NWHL.