When I last posted a Rants and Raves, the Riveters had just come off a statement win against the Connecticut Whale. Since then, it's been rough going. The Rivs lost 5-1 to the Beauts in Buffalo, Packer was given a game suspension, and a winter storm postponed the January 20th game against the Pride. All of this added up to 21 days since the Riveters last played a game, but finally we returned to Newark for some hockey! Saturday's game wasn't just any match up, but the Riveters vs Beauts. I always get a bit excited when the Rivs and Beauts play each other, the games are usually physical due to the rivalry, and while that's not good in terms of keeping players out of the penalty box and mentally disciplined, it always makes for a thrilling game. However, with the season the Riveters have been having, and the last match up against the Beauts not exactly going the Rivs way, there was a lot of uncertainty going into Saturday's game.
~ Aside from a few players who took advantage of finally getting ice time, the Riveters did not show up to this game. The Beauts were doing the bare minimum and kept control of the play. While it seemed like the Rivs kept up, the Beauts looked more reserved than usual. It was a game of cat and mouse. It wasn't until the Beauts were challenged by the Rivs in the second period that they picked up their pace, and then Buffalo really showed off their depth. The Rivs were getting played for a majority of the game.
~ Russo and Kessel were invisible in this game. It was really unusual. I don't think there's been a game where I haven’t noticed them whizzing around the ice trying to create space and plays. Hopefully it was just an off game for them. It was definitely bad timing with Packer out, when the Rivs could have really used their offensive prowess to shore up the gap in the lineup.
~ Despite working on special teams during practice, it didn't translate to this game. Their special teams are killing them this season. It's extremely frustrating to watch, and I can only imagine how frustrating it is for the players. I really have no idea how this can be solved. It's shocking that their power play has gone from 25.6% last season to 7.8% this year, with relatively few personnel changes.
~ This is more of an observation, but since nothing has been done about the coaching situation (and I doubt anything is going to change on that front), the Rivs play is transitioning from frustrated to listless.
~ Morse took advantage of her opportunity, and she played hard. I saw her all over the ice throughout the game trying to get something going, and she succeeded in the 2nd to tie the game 1-1. Really happy she had a chance to get some ice time. Would love to see her dress for the remaining games.
~ Shoutout to Lewicki, Aramburu, Richards, Lawler, and Koelzer. Those five stood out in an otherwise inconsistent game, trying to get things going and transitioning the puck when they could and, in the case of Lewicki and Aramburu, getting some points! The Riveters do have depth, it's nice to see them use it effectively.
~ Fitzgerald had a solid game. It was great to see her get the start, and the Beauts definitely tested her all game long. I'm also glad the weird goalie situation hasn't gotten to Fitz. She's as dependable as ever when called upon. Also, her You Can Play bucket was sweet!
~Nicole Hensley's puck handling is really something to watch live. It wouldn't hurt for the Rivs' goalies (heck, any goalies anywhere!) to watch some tape on her, and practice moving the puck as she does. It would really help prevent the Rivs from getting stuck in their own end.
There’s only so much I can say about the Riveters at this point in the season. The reigning Champions are fighting for home advantage in a wild card game. Without a serious shakeup, would it be worth to play that game at all? The result already feels inevitable. While it’s a really pessimistic view, and as a fan I always try to look on the bright side, it's exhausting watching the obvious problem not get addressed. However, I stay hopeful something will change in the remaining three games to inspire and turn their play around. After all, anything can happen.
These final thoughts are directed to the league itself. The lack of professionalism, the radio silence in regards to basic league rules and policies is unacceptable. There's nothing public. How can anyone know what to do when a problem arises in a game, after a game, or if a game doesn't get played? These are Day One things a professional league needs in order to run smoothly. If there's an issue, the league needs to be ready, and have public standards and policies established so any problem is corrected immediately and everyone (players, fans, and league representatives) are all on the same page and know what to expect.
There have been several major issues this season with player discipline, and inconsistency with how it's applied. What is the process for player appeals? Packer was suspended for a fight with Casorso and both players were immediately removed from the game. Packer was given a one game suspension without any announcement from the league, and apparently with no way for her to appeal. Meanwhile the league doesn't even blink or acknowledge that Brandt charged the net without stopping and injured Räisänen, leaving the Whale scrambling to sign a goalie. How is this fair or consistent? Why the secrecy around player discipline? (To the extent that the players themselves don’t know what’s going on?) Even if it's mundane and self-explanatory, the league should be the one making these announcements and releasing them first.
For several games in a row, there have been issues with subjective calls made by refs, how can the players voice their objections? How can the refs be objective when there's no official rulebook released by the league for players and refs alike? How can the players follow the rules if they don't know them!? How is the league able to discipline refs when they overstep their bounds? The players shouldn’t be left guessing: it’s one thing for a competitive athlete to feel that they didn’t actually break the rules; it’s another for them to genuinely not know what those rules are. The league owes everyone some transparency here.
When a game gets canceled, why doesn't the league have an answer ready for fans who can't make the rescheduled game? There were postponed and canceled games in Season 2, and none of the games were rescheduled, nor were refunds offered. At that time, I accepted my money was essentially going to a charity, but the league should have learned their lesson then and been ready when it happened again. It's the tail end of Season 4, and the league has found some stability. Fortunately, January 20th game against the Pride has been rescheduled, but not everyone can make the rescheduled date. What's the policy for ticket holders who paid money for a game but can't make the new date? There needs to be a plan for people who bought a ticket for the postponed game, and season ticket holders who can't make the new date. There should have been a plan from the outset.
It's time to step it up, NWHL. The on-ice talent is there: it’s time to get it together and tidy up the administrative side. You want to be in this for the long run? Amateur hour has got to end. You can and MUST be better.