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2021-22 PHF Season Recap: Metropolitan Riveters

Michelle Jay

The 2021-22 Metropolitan Riveters were a veteran group that fell short of meeting their potential. After undergoing a lot of changes following the Lake Placid season, the Riveters stepped back on the ice with a radically different blue line but still had familiar faces central to the team’s identity, including captain Madison Packer.

How they finished

Record: 7-12-1 (21 pts)
PP: 16.3% (3rd)
PK: 86.2% (4th)
Tm Sv%: .909

What went right

With a few exceptions, the Rivs’ best players on paper were those who made the biggest impact on the ice. Packer, Russo, and Cornine all played up to some lofty expectations and the Rivs likely got more than they expected out of players like Theresa Knutson, Brooke Wolejko, and depth defender Rose Alleva.

To be honest, I thought the Rivs were a flawed team out of the gate. I picked them to finish fifth or sixth because I thought they lost more talent than they brought in over the 2021 offseason. They finished fourth and were a better team than I thought they’d be because of the performance of Wolejko, Barbara, and Knutson — who had five goals at EV.

What went wrong

The lack of depth on the blue line at the start of the year and the lack of depth scoring haunted the team throughout the year. It really is that simple.

The Rivs just weren’t deep enough to hold their own against the Whale, Pride, and Six most nights. I don’t think the Rivs got as much as they were hoping in terms of production from Kelly Babstock or Emily Janiga who were both staples in the top-six and veterans who were central to the team’s identity. I also still wonder if the Rivs didn’t give Lenka Čurmová enough of a chance to make her mark on the team. She was an All-Star a few seasons ago and is still just 24.

Best Forward | Madison Packer

Packer finished fifth in the league in scoring and had six more points than the Rivs’ second-highest scorer (Russo with 17). She was the team’s most impactful forward at both even-strength and on the power play, even though Russo led the league in goals scored on the advantage. I think you can also make a strong case for her being the most impactful forward in the defensive zone — she is and always has been great off the puck.

The biggest strike against the Rivs’ captain this year was the number of trips she took to the penalty box as well as the timing of some of those trips. But, let’s be real here — Packer is the face of the franchise and, despite all of the team’s struggles, she was its best forward and player. She averaged over 4.0 SOG/GP and was the team’s best playmaker. In other words, she was the engine of the offense and did an outstanding job in that role finishing with 23 points in 20 GP.

Best Defender | Kristen Barbara

Feel free to accuse me of being lazy for this, but most of what I want to say about Barbara I already said in our TIG Roundtable for PHF awards:

This may be a controversial pick to some, but I am giving the nod to Barbara. She did it all for the Riveters this season. I’m not sure there was another defender in the league who had as much pressure on them to rise to the occasion as Barbara and she absolutely delivered.

Barbara finished fourth on the team in scoring and was out there in every situation for the Rivs. She was exceptional in her own zone and when Kiira Dosdall-Arena returned to the team they were, hands down, the best d-pair on the team. This is one new veteran to the team that the Rivs should definitely try to bring back for another year.

Best Rookie | Nora Maclaine

Maclaine had a strong start to her first season of PHF hockey but was unable to keep up the impressive scoring rate she established with three points in her first four games. Unfortunately for Maclaine, she went 15 games in a row without scoring before picking up the fourth and final point of her rookie season, finishing with 2 goals and 2 assists in 20 GP.

Interestingly enough, Maclaine was one of just two rookies on the entire Rivs’ squad — the other being Romana Kosecka. Maclaine gets the nod here because she was a solid third-line center who averaged a little over 1.0 SOG/GP and finished in the green in FO%. She definitely isn’t a contender for Rookie/Newcomer of the Year, but she proved that she has the skills to be a solid player in this league after being a dominant player in the AWIHL in 2019-20 with the Perth Inferno.

MVP | Brooke Wolejko

I think Packer was the team’s best skater but I think Wolejko was its most valuable player. Both players were incredibly valuable to the team but, at the end of the day, I have to give the edge to the goalie.

Packer was the catalyst of the offense but Wolejko was the player who kept them in games, including some games they didn’t really belong in. Truth be told, Wolejko didn’t get nearly as much credit as she deserved this year for starting the season as a backup and finishing as a starter with a .915 Sv% against an average workload of 34.75 SA60. She flat-out outplayed Sonjia Shelly — which is nothing against Shelly, it’s just what Wolejko was able to do this year and she did it behind a patchwork blue line. She looked like the goalie that had Whale fans buzzing in 2019-20. There is no doubt that she has the goods to be a true workhorse starter in this league.