The Metropolitan Riveters have rebuilt their roster... again. Stuck in mediocrity for a third consecutive season after winning the Isobel Cup in 2018 (how long ago does that feel?), the franchise has gone through a lot of changes this off-season in hopes of flipping the script in the standings.
7-12-1, lost in the semi-finals to the Minnesota Whitecaps (again).
PP%: 16.3 (3rd)
PK%: 86.2 (4th)
Everyone knew last season that if you could slow down the offensive output of the dynamic duo of Madison Packer and Kendall Cornine, you had a good chance to beat the Rivs. Sure, Packer finished fifth in the PHF scoring race, with Cornine and Rebecca Russo not far behind, but too often there wasn’t enough help around them. Their defense corps had precisely one goal, and it came in the final game of the regular season.
Oftentimes, perhaps too often, the coaching staff would shorten the bench which didn’t allow anyone not on the top two lines to make an impact in their games. Another recurring theme for the Riveters was the parade to the penalty box. In 20 games they racked up 195 penalty minutes, the second most in the league. While they may have finished fourth in the standings, that was only because Minnesota lost their netminder Amanda Leveille halfway through the campaign.
Minttu Tuominen, Kennedy Ganser, Evelina Mäkinen
With only three returning players from last season’s roster there are a lot of players to choose from here so we chose one F, one D, and one G. Tuominen joins the team with 12 years of prior pro experience and should help to settle down the blueline, while Ganser was one of the top rookies in the PHF last season, and perhaps Buffalo’s best first-year player.
In goal, the Rivs have struggled to replace Katie Fitzgerald since Season 5 began. So perhaps this is the season where they find that missing puzzle piece by adding both Mäkinen and Princeton University standout Rachel McQuigge to control the crease. Like Tuominen, Mäkinen has a ton of previous pro experience and a few Olympic medals in her trapper, too.
Can I say none? No. Okay, a big loss is Kristen Barbara’s presence on the blueline. Time after time she was able to get her point shot through the crowds in front of the net, but more times than not her teammates were unable to capitalize. Also, this will remain to be seen, but how different would Brooke Wolejko’s numbers look behind this group rather than the one she was behind last season? She’s a really good goaltender that has been victimized by some leaky defense in front of her during her tenure in this league.
Full Roster (as of press time)
GM: Tori Charron (1st season)
Head Coach: Venla Hovi (1st season)
Associate Head Coach: Ivo Mocek (4th season, 1st as AHC)
Forward: Madison Packer (C), Kendall Cornine, Kelly Babstock, Amanda Pelkey, Kaycie Anderson, Catherine Crawley, Leah Marino, Kennedy Ganser, Sarah Bujold, Reka Dabasi, Fanni Gasparics.
Defense: Sarah Forster, Minttu Tuominen, Ebba Berglund, Anna Kilponen, Emilie Harley, Taylor Marchin.
Goalie: Evelina Mäkinen, Rachel McQuigge.
Depth. The Riveters have depth scoring now. Or should anyway. Ganser and Leah Marino can score at this level and should be a tick better this season with possible increased ice time. We know Amanda Pelkey can score, and Sarah Bujold has already popped in a few goals during the exhibition season. They should be able to score more goals, provided the bench doesn’t get shortened again.
KENNEDY GANSER SEALS THE DEAL IN OVERTIME! pic.twitter.com/prRiJRe3LI— PHF (@PHF) March 20, 2022
Also, they should be able to add more offense from the backend. Like Ganser, Harley joins from Buffalo after a promising rookie season. Her presence, combined with the addition of Sarah Forster, Minttu Tuominen, and others should provide a different element than they’ve had over the past few seasons.
No one knows each other. That’s it. There are only three returning players (out of 19 total). A new coach. A new home rink. A lot of players are new to this country, and league. The biggest question I have is how quickly will they be able to come together as one unit, as a group, and get on the same page.
“It is a new group, new coach, new systems, new almost everything. We have more preseason games this year to feel things out. I think in the past, the mistakes that we’ve made,” Packer told TIG, “is that we get frustrated early and are unable to recover from them. So - having a short memory, keeping a positive attitude; that’s one thing that stands out with this group (thus far) is the positivity.”
Their first three games will be a big test to see where they are at - at Boston on opening night (Nov. 5), before returning home for a two-game set against the Toronto Six. Those are two teams that we all expect to be at or near the top of the standings. Did the Riveters do enough this off-season to get on that level? Or will they be mired in the bottom half of the standings for yet another year?
There have obviously been a lot of changes, and as I laid out, the Riveters are hoping that it was enough to catch the teams at the top half of the standings.
Packer and Cornine will likely finish with around 18-20 points, but what will everyone else be able to contribute? Can the Rivs stay out of the penalty box, something that has plagued the franchise since the Randy Era in Season 4?
On paper, I think they are better than last season’s edition. They added a lot of players with potential, and some who may be primed for a breakout season.
I’m not sure it was enough to catch Connecticut, Boston, or Toronto though. Their battle will be with Minnesota and Buffalo to make their way into the top four of the Season 8 standings.