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2020 Isobel Cup Playoffs Preview: Riveters at Whitecaps

These two teams have split every weekend they’ve played, but there’s only one game left.

Pat McCarthy

Where to Watch

This game, and all other Isobel Cup Playoff games can be streamed on the NWHL Twitch channel, or the NWHL2 Twitch channel in the event that games overlap.

This game will be played on Sunday, March 8 at 1:30 pm EST followed by the winner of the last place play-in game against the Boston Pride at 2:30 that same day.

Season Series

The Minnesota Whitecaps ended the season in second place with a 17-5-2 record, while the Riveters trailed them in third place with a 10-11-3 record. The Whitecaps have won their last four games in a row, while the Riveters lost their final game of the season to the Beauts. The Whitecaps also posted a +54 goal differential while the Riveters held a -27. All of these stats just go to show how drastically different the second and third place teams were this season. In spite of this, they split their season series.

These teams met six different times across three weekends and all three times, they split the series. The Whitecaps won two Saturday games out of the matchups, one at home and one in New Jersey, but fell short those following Sundays. The middle meeting between the teams, saw the Riveters winning in overtime on the Saturday but falling short on Sunday. While many Riveters fans have a theory that the team drastically plays better during Sunday games, I don’t think there is much science to that to bring to this game.

If there is something comforting for Riveters fans to take to the semi-final game with them, it’s that they’ve beaten Minnesota the first game of a weekend more than not. It will still take a lot to eliminate the second place team that has only trended upward since taking town the Boston Pride, as the only team to do so this season.

Players to Watch

Amanda Leveille: With 16 wins on the season and a .935 save percentage, Leveille comes second to only the immovable force that was Lovisa Selander this season. She is having her best NWHL season yet, beating her previous self in every single stat. She has played in every single Isobel Cup Final game that has been played, and I guarantee you that is not a streak she is willing to break this time around.

Allie Thunstrom: Thunstrom leads not only her team, but the league in goals with a career high of 24. For those like myself who can’t always do the math correctly, that’s a goal per game average. She is also only second in the league in points to Pride captain, Jillian Dempsey. She is hands down the make or break player of most Whitecaps games. If she is hot, there is no stopping her.

Kate Leary: The Riveters leading scorer has scored at least once in every meeting with the Whitecaps aside from one. She has the highest scoring percentage among forwards on the team, and given great opportunity, capitalizes in big moments toward the beginnings and ends of games. She will be a key to Metropolitan’s success this weekend.

Rebecca Morse: Morse is not only a veteran presence who often represents the heart and soul of the Riveters team, she has two game winning goals on the season, one being an overtime shot against the Whitecaps. The NWHL Foundation Award winner has the most points among Riveters defenders and is truly having a breakout season. The team would be sorely missing her if she wasn’t in the lineup

Prediction

A key element for both teams is going to be special teams. The Riveters head into this game with the second most penalty minutes in the league at 299, the Whitecaps with the least at 170. Anyone who has watched the Riveters play, knows that they have a serious issue with taking penalties and continuing to take penalties, especially late in games.

If they can stay out of the box, they can thrive in a game against Minnesota. If they can’t, they can fall quickly into a hole like they did in these teams’ first meeting where Minnesota was able to score eight unanswered goals.

Much like that, everyone knows that the key to Minnesota playing so well is their speed and discipline. It’s rare that you find them making a costly mistake and odds are if they score on you, it’s because they were able to whizz right by and be at the net before you were able to catch them.

All things considered, Minnesota is the heavy favorite, especially with hosting the game at Tria Rink which sells out more than it doesn’t for Whitecaps games. At the same time, the Riveters have never gone down without a fight. I think the Whitecaps will take this one in overtime 4-3.