We have all read and heard a lot about how exceptional the Metropolitan Riveters’ defense and goaltending were last year. But the Isobel Cup Champion Riveters were not a one-dimensional team; Chad Wiseman’s roster also had an enviably deep group of forwards. That forward depth helped the Riveters endure Miye D’Oench’s injury and gave the team the most dangerous third line in the NWHL last year.
It’s still early in the offseason, but we already know that the next Riveters coach will need to find a new way to balance the team’s offense. The Riveters have signed superstar Amanda Kessel, but there are still a lot of questions about what the offense is going to look like. We also know that a few members of last year’s team will not be back in 2018-19. Harrison Browne has retired from women’s professional hockey, and Tatiana Rafter has registered for the CWHL Draft.
Both Canadians were a huge part of the Riveters’ forward depth and team identity last year. Browne killed penalties and spent most of the season working his tail off and creating space for his linemates on the second line. Meanwhile, Rafter gave the Riveters size, speed, and invaluable depth down the middle. They also both contributed to the team’s depth scoring, which made it possible for the Riveters to have three scoring lines.
Replacing what Browne and Rafter brought to the team last year won’t be easy, but the Riveters are already off to a solid start with some of their signings early in free agency. Kelly Nash and Rebecca Morse have both re-signed with the team.
Morse is a natural defender, but the New Jersey native scored two goals while playing forward last season. Her versatility and work ethic makes her a valuable piece of the puzzle heading into next season. Nash’s stickhandling and vision caught many by surprise last season. She earned Player of the Week honors and scored in the playoffs for the Riveters last year.
The Riveters have also added rookie forward Audra Richards to the mix. As a senior with the University of Maine Black Bears in 2015-16, Richards was second on the team in blocked shots (44) while playing wing. That stat alone says a lot about her work ethic. She also led Maine in SOG/GP and had 12 even strength goals that year. A two-way winger with a nose for the net? Richards sounds like a Riveter already.
The return of Kessel, Nash, and Morse and the addition of Richards is a promising start for the Riveters forward corps. We also know that Madison Packer, the league leader in goals last season, plans to return next season and that Rebecca Russo, Alexa Gruschow, and Bray Ketchum have been and/or will be on the ice for Riveters youth hockey events this summer.
As promising as that group looks on paper, we can’t count forwards who have yet to sign. With Rafter gone and Erika Lawler’s future with the team uncertain, there’s also a question about the team’s center depth. Clearly, the Riveters still have a lot of work ahead of them if they hope to rebuild the best offense in the league.