For a team that was riding high in the NWHL only two seasons ago, it seems as though the Metropolitan Riveters have had a particularly spectacular fall from grace. Since winning the Isobel Cup in the 2017-2018 season, the Riveters have found themselves in the bottom half of the league, battling desperately for an opportunity to prove themselves in the playoffs. The Riveters were able to make their way to the second round last year, but with a team hit particularly hard by the PWHPA, this year feels particularly like a rebuilding year.
However, every rebuilding year has the opportunity to grow into success. Despite the first half of the season filled with some hard losses, there are a few bright spots in this report that can lead to a hopeful second half of the season.
Offense – C-
One of the most obvious weak points for the Riveters is scoring. With 41 goals in the first 13 games of the season, the Riveters are fifth in the league and are ahead of the Connecticut Whale by 18 goals. A -17 goal differential brings even more attention to an anemic offense that is in dire need of a pick-me-up.
However, the lack of scoring isn’t for a lack of trying. The top line of the Riveters is made up of Kate Leary, Madison Packer, and Kendall Cornine, who have a combined 18 percent scoring percentage. That offensive success rivals nearly every team in the league, painting a strong picture of leadership on the top line. However, outside of the top line, the Riveters goal-scoring takes a nosedive, showing that lack of offensive success is due to a lack of secondary scoring.
Cornine is third on the team with a .172 scoring percentage, which is 10th among all forwards in the league.
Defense - C+
It’s hard to have a strong outlook on defense when a team is as outscored by the opponent as the Riveters are. Having 58 goals scored against this season shows a great weakness in preventing pucks from getting to the net. There is not one player on the Riveters’ team with a positive +/- rating, again pushing the narrative that this team is struggling defensively.
However, what saves this grade is the success of the penalty kill for the Riveters. The Riveters are tied with the Connecticut Whale for first in Shorthanded Goals For, with three. With a 82 percent success on the penalty kill, the special teams for the Riveters are third in the league, showing that there is leadership coming from the blue line for this team. The Riveter’s defensive core is backed by Colleen Murphy and Rebecca Morse, who have a combined seven years in the league.
Absentminded defense is a struggle for this team — this Minnesota goal is the result of catching the Riveters defense ineffectively pinching along the boards.
Goal Tending - C-
The Riveters are backstopped by a young pair of netminders in Sam Walther and Dana DeMartino, which lends to their growing pains in net. Walther has started every one of the 13 games this season, and is third in the league in wins by a goaltender, owning all of the Riveters’ six wins this season. Almost every win this season held only a single-goal deficit, showing Walther’s ability to be clutch when the game is on the line.
However, despite owning the victories, Walther also has to own the losses. In 11 games this season, Walther has allowed 54 goals, 39 of which have been in losses alone. While a portion of this can be attributed to ineffective defense, a reasonable fan could say that Walther should have been pulled.
However, DeMartino has logged ice time in only two games this season: 20 minutes in the December 7th 3-8 loss to the Pride, and just over 30 minutes in the October 12th 2-9 loss against the Whitecaps. In those appearances, DeMartino maintained a 91.2 save percentage on 25 shots. For future success, the Riveters must learn to spread the wealth in net, if for no other reason than to help Walther out of a slump and to shake up the team.
Sam Walther’s ability to come in clutch is one of the things keeping the Riveters ahead of Connecticut in the Standings.
Overall - C-
It’s no secret that the Riveters are attempting to build success with a program that is struggling intensely with the current flux in the NWHL. The current struggles are caused, in part, from a team lacking leadership. Only three current Riveters — Murphy, Packer, and Morse — were on the team last year. The three are backstops to the team at their positions, and although they lead the team in +/-, they are unable to carry the team exclusively.
When the Riveters have leadership on the ice, the entire team benefits — as evident in Packer making this play happen.
However, this team is not one that should be counted out. Two years ago, the Riveters were able to bring home the Isobel with seven of their 12 wins coming in the second half of the season. While a total turnaround might not seem likely, with hockey, no team is ever truly out until they’re out.