NWHL Recap: Week 5

The Pride get their first win and the Riveters remain undefeated

Fitzgerald’s shutout keeps the Riveters undefeated

Mike Murphy

Riveters goals: Alexa Gruschow (6) at ES, Kelly Nash (1) at ES, Miye D’Oench (4) at ES, Bray Ketchum (2) on the PP.

On Sunday the Riveters hosted the Whale for their first regular season home game in the Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark. The Riveters were undefeated coming into Sunday’s contest — and when the final horn sounded their record improved to 5-0-0 — but the Whale put up a much better fight than the 4-0 final score might lead you to believe.

In the first period it was all Riveters. Metropolitan outshot the visiting team 11 to 2 and scored the first two goals of the game. Alexa Gruschow kept her point streak alive thanks to a crafty deflection off of a Courtney Burke pass early in the first. The Riveters second tally came from the stick of Kelly Nash, who cut across the slot and shot against the grain to score in her NWHL debut.

The Whale have shown resiliency all season long, and Sunday was no different. Coach Ryan Equale’s team outshot the Riveters 23-14 in the final two periods, but Katie Fitzgerald was simply too good. And the Riveters top line didn’t slow down after scoring the first goal of the game.

Miye D’Oench buried her fourth goal of the year late in the second period after several minutes of the Whale putting on sustained pressure. And in the third period Bray Ketchum scored on the power play to put the game out of Connecticut’s reach. It was her second goal in two games.

Madison Packer made her return to the Riveters lineup on Sunday and had primary assists on both Nash’s and Ketchum’s goals. Packer played on the third line but was noticeable throughout the game, thanks in large part to two near-goals.

Player of the Game

The big story from Sunday’s matinee was Katie Fitzgerald’s 25-save shutout. The highlight of her night was likely stonewalling a Kelly Babstock breakaway in the second period to effectively deflate the Whale’s hard-earned momentum. Fitzgerald likely made more stops than she was credited with, given all of the scrums in and around the Riveters net with players jamming at the loose puck. It was the first shutout of the 2017-18 season and the third of Fitzgerald’s NWHL career.

Note: Jordan Brickner (CTW) and Ashley Johnston (MET) were both out on Sunday due to injuries.

Gagliardi pots two, leads Boston to first win of the season

Erica Ayala

Pride goals: Alyssa Gagliardi (1) at ES, Jordan Smelker (1) on the PP, Alyssa Gagliardi (2) at ES

Beauts goals: Rebecca Vint (1) on the PP, Sarah Edney (1) at ES

The Battle of the Isobel Cup Champions resulted in Boston earning its first win of the third NWHL season. The Pride rallied from an early power play goal against to defeat the Buffalo Beauts 3-2 on Saturday.

Rebecca Vint got the scoring started in the first period, beating Brittany Ott early on the first power play of the game. The 1-0 scored held until four minutes into the second period. Defender Alyssa Gagliardi netted her first career NWHL goal at the 4:31 mark to tie the game. Just shy of two minutes later, Gagliardi found Jordan Smelker for the second Pride goal of the game on the power play.

Sixty minutes later, Gagliardi put away a pass from Jillian Dempsey for her second goal of the game, which proved to be the game winner. Sarah Edney brought the Beauts within one goal halfway through the second frame, but the 3-2 score would hold for the final 30 minutes of the game. The Pride put away 3 of 36 shots on goal. Amanda Leveille posted a .917 save percentage in the loss. Ott stopped 27 of 29 shots she faced.

Led by Gagliardi, the Pride continue to awaken on offense, perhaps proving they can be the offensive threat many expected leading into season three. Key players Dempsey and Janine Weber collected assists in the win, but will need to contribute more often for the Pride to continue collecting points in the standings.

As for the Beauts, NWHL media member Erik Wollschlager noted the struggles the defending champions seem to be having late in games.

In three games, the Beauts have been outscored 6-1 during the third period, writes Wollschlager. Head coach Ric Seiling emphasized the importance of conditioning in cleaning up that stat. However, the Beauts lost at least one player to suspension in the last two games. While Seiling might wish to dress only the most fit, if the Beauts cannot play with more discipline, the second-year coach might not have many options.

Player of the Game

With three points on the night, Gagliardi gets the nod for Player of the Game. The third-year veteran’s performance on Saturday was enough to earn NWHL Player of the Week honors.

Check out TIG photographers Michelle Jay and Al Saniuk on Twitter for pictures of the Pride’s home win.