Day One of the 2021 season in Lake Placid was a wild ride from start to finish. Three games, three outcomes, and only one was even remotely expected. Let’s recap:
Metropolitan Riveters beat Toronto Six, 3–0
Leila Kilduff had herself a game, scoring two goals to help lift the Riveters over the brand-new Toronto Six. Emily Janiga added an empty netter, and Sonjia Shelly withstood a 40-save barrage to post her first NWHL shutout. Elaine Chuli, for her part, was also strong in net for the Six, making 16 saves to keep it tight.
- The Six threw everything they could at Shelly in this game. Mikyla Grant-Mentis was the shot leader for both clubs with 9 SOG through three periods, half of the total shots on goal for the Riveters.
- Shelly on mental preparation for her first game: “I think [the mindset] was a bit different just because we had so much time off ... we just had a lot of excitement, and I just really wanted to channel that excitement, and not get too high or too low but really stay level headed.”
- Six head coach Digit Murphy had the words “flex” and “flow” written on her wrists for today’s game, stating that that was the team’s mantra heading in to the opener against Metro. “I think what’s so challenging is, you’re trying to have this real short-term competition, and have all your systems down ... for the first time, but I gotta hand it to these guys, if we had had a couple of bounces, it could easily have gone the other way. We’re a really strong team ... I know these guys have a lot of hockey in them.”
- Under the Radar | The Toronto Six power play is shaping up to be dangerous. Obviously no goals today, but the opportunities they create on the skater-advantage, and their facility for moving the puck and using the whole ice, is not to be overlooked.
- Player of the Game | Sonjia Shelly, MET — 40 saves, first NWHL shutout/
Minnesota Whitecaps beat Boston Pride, 2–1
An early deficit turned into a comeback win for Minnesota, whose captain Winny Brodt-Brown scored the game-winning goal (also her first NWHL goal) to break the tie with the Pride at 11:59 of the second period. This came after Boston’s Christina Putigna and Minnesota’s Jonna Curtis traded goals in the first, and after the Pride had chance after chance on the power play following some very undisciplined play by the Whitecaps.
- Minnesota head coach Jack Brodt was thrilled with the way his team rallied, stating it was “the best game [they’ve] played in the last two or three years as far as killing penalties.” The Whitecaps in fact went six for six on the PK, while the Pride were four for four.
- On the other end, Pride coach Paul Mara was less than happy about his special teams. When asked about what went wrong on the power play, his answer was short and sweet: “Everything.” He elaborated, “We’ve talked about it a lot, we’ve worked on it a lot ... it’s one of those things that we might have to get a dirty goal to get this thing rolling, but I’m confident in the skills our players have, that we can turn this around real quick.”
- Amanda Leveille and Lovisa Selander went head to head in goal, and in the end it was Leveille who was the difference maker, with 36 saves on 37 shots. She quickly demurred to her teammates when asked about her performance, crediting them with helping block shots and clear rebounds from in front of the net. Brodt-Brown in particular was mentioned, as she blocked the shot that eventually turned into her going the other way for her goal.
- Under the Radar | Audra Richards had assists on both goals for Minnesota, providing speed, strength, and overall excellent playmaking skills.
- Player of the Game | Amanda Leveille, 36 saves/
Connecticut Whale beat Buffalo Beauts, 2–1 (SO)
The last game of the night was also the wildest, with the Whale needing a shootout to secure a second standings point over the Beauts. Kayla Friesen scored in regulation for Connecticut. Kristin Lewicki tied things up in the third period on the power play. Katelynn Russ of the Whale was the lone scorer in extra time.
- The real showdown here was between the two rookie netminders — Abbie Ives for the Whale and Carly Jackson for the Beauts. Ives pulled out the win and some great saves amongst her 24 stops, but Jackson was a revelation for Buffalo, making 42 saves and keeping Buffalo in it until the very end. Both are excellent finds for their respective clubs, with bright futures ahead.
- Whale coach Colton Orr expressed pleasure at the idea of having two solid netminders in Ives and Brooke Wolejko ready to go at any moment: “In a tournament like this, to have a lot of games in a short period of time, it’s nice to have that. We knew that when we got [Ives] we were expecting her to come here and play the way she did, and that’s exactly what she did [tonight].” Wolejko is getting the start tomorrow against the Riveters.
- We may be seeing some growth to this Beauts squad: no penalties right up until 3:20 of the third period. Definitely an excellent development for a team that gave its PK a workout last year.
- Under the Radar | Brooke Stacey didn’t score, but she had some great plays for the Beauts, particularly toward the end of the third when things got hectic. She finished with 3 SOG and was +1 on the night.
- Player of the Game | Abbie Ives, 24 saves, first career win/
Toronto vs. Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Connecticut vs. Metropolitan, 4 p.m.
Boston vs. Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Catch all games live on twitch.tv/nwhl.