There were two games played last weekend, with the Boston Pride handily beating the Metropolitan Riveters who in turn topped the Connecticut Whale in a squeaker. Perhaps more impressively, there were a whopping 43 penalties called in just two games. Woe to the statisticians.
The Riveters and Whitecaps will have the spotlight Saturday and Sunday as the lone matchup this weekend. Let’s take a look at who’s hot, who’s not and who to keep an eye on going forward.
Trending up: Connecticut’s penalty kill | 5-for-5 vs Riveters
I’ve devoted a lot of virtual ink to the many defensive woes of the Connecticut Whale because of how excruciatingly close they have come to winning without actually following through to date.
But on the bright side, their penalty kill has been much improved since Colton Orr’s arrival behind the bench. They’ve successfully killed off their last 10 penalties and 17 of their last 20. That’s 85% success in their last five games. In their first five games without Orr, they were a mere 11-for-19 (57.9%).
Their recent successes hit an apex this past weekend, with Kaycie Anderson netting the first shorthanded goal for the team all season.
WATCH: @Kaycieanderson9 with a shorthanded BEAUTY on a breakaway to tie this game up for the @CTWhale_NWHL! Watch the rest of this one streaming live and free on @Twitch!— NWHL (@NWHL) December 8, 2019
: https://t.co/EHkD9gflXv pic.twitter.com/eazmPoV2YR
Generally speaking the Whale have been much more aggressive pressuring the puck carrier and they’ve been much stingier about allowing entries into the offensive zone. Plus, their coverage in front of their net is a lot smarter.
Notice how Sarah Schwenzfeier (#21) is covering the front of the net with her skates parallel with the puck carrier, which puts her in a better position to not only break up the pass, but also to initiate contact with Cailey Hutchison on the doorstep, negating a potential redirection or rebound.
Hanna Beattie overcommits on the play twice, both allowing Madison Packer to spin off her to get to the net and following Tatiana Shatalova behind the net, but is fortunately saved by her netminder Brooke Wolejko with an unbelievable save.
While things still aren’t perfect, it’s clear some change in mentality has taken hold.
Trending down: Metro’s discipline | 17 penalties this weekend
It isn’t necessarily fair just to pick on the Riveters in the discipline department. After all, Boston was tagged with 11 penalties on Saturday. Metro meanwhile took 12 trips to the sin bin Saturday and five more on Sunday.
There were six different instances on Saturday of Boston or Metropolitan taking a penalty while on a powerplay. Four of those six were by the Riveters. Whether it be overly critical officials or just especially sloppy play, Saturday’s contest moved laboriously slow.
For what it’s worth, the Riveters did get a shortie out of the deal. So...everything went according to plan?
Trending up: Madison Packer, MET | 3 points in two games
There are very few hockey players more fun to watch right now than Madison Packer. Packer appears to be in the headspace that she can do virtually anything she wants on the ice, and that’s when a hockey player becomes captivating. She’s been feeling herself of late, powering into the zone, imposing her will in front of the net and has been moving the puck on a dime.
She has points in all nine Riveters games this season. She’s a game-breaker in every sense. Oh, and she’s been having fun in practice too.
Trending down: Rivs’ PK vs MIN | Facing league’s best power-play
The Minnesota Whitecaps have been positively lethal on the advantage this season. They have transformed from the league’s fourth-best power-play into the league’s best by striking 10 times on 32 attempts.
Meanwhile, the Riveters have the second-worst penalty kill in the league at 79.2%. This past weekend they allowed two power-play goals and a shorthanded goal to the Pride and Whale.
It’s been a tumultuous year for their special teams, which is bad news when facing one of the most dangerous special teams units in the NWHL.
Trending up: Alyssa Wohlfeiler, BOS | Goal, two assists vs MET
By the end of this season, virtually every Boston Pride player will have been featured in this series. This time around it’s Alyssa Wohlfeiler’s turn.
Wohlfeiler has eight points in her last three games, and has posted five multi-point performances in 11 games this season. She found the back of the net Saturday against the Riveters in what has to be one of the easiest, most wide-open looks of the year.
Boston has simply been running roughshod over the rest of the league, and there’s seemingly a new star every week. This isn’t a team being carried by a select individual(s), this is an organization that gels from top to bottom; a cohesive unit set to seek and destroy.