NWHL Recap: Week 7

The Beauts are back in second place and the Riveters just keep on winning.

The Beauts find a way to win over unlucky Whale

Angelica Rodriguez

Buffalo 3, Connecticut 1

BUF: Jess Jones (2), Kristin Lewicki (2), Hayley Scamurra (2) (ENG)
CTW: Amanda Boulier (1)

Buffalo heads into 2018 with a lock on second place, as the Beauts beat the Whale 3-1 at HarborCenter in a more subdued, but steadier effort than usual.

Both teams played an even and scoreless game in the first period, but the Beauts jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the middle frame on the strength of goals by Jess Jones (her second in two games) and Kristin Lewicki.

That lead was cut in half within the first five minutes of the third as Amanda Boulier capitalized on a defensive breakdown that’s become common for Buffalo this season. However, despite being outshot 19-9, the Beauts bent rather than breaking, utilizing a good penalty kill and taking advantage of an ill-timed penalty by the Whale to seal the deal on a Hayley Scamurra empty-netter.

Player of the Game

Jones has woken up her game as of late after a quiet start to her first NWHL season, and was all over the ice as part of the starting line Saturday. Co-head coach Ric Seiling said he wasn’t sure if Jones knew just what to expect in her transition from CWHL to NWHL play (if any), but she is “starting to define herself” and come into her own. She certainly is looking more and more like the player the Beauts signed out of the CWHL over the summer.

Riveters remain undefeated, slowing streaking Pride

Erica Ayala

Metropolitan 4, Boston 2

BOS: Janine Weber (1), Meagan Mangene (2)
MET: Miye D'Oench (6), Jenny Ryan (3) on PP, Alexa Gruschow (7), Erika Lawler (1) on PP

Saturday’s matchup between the Metropolitan Riveters and the Boston Pride was heavily anticipated.  The teams began the weekend as the top two teams in the league. With a Buffalo win over the Connecticut Whale earlier in the day, the Boston Pride would need a win to maintain second place headed into the holiday break.

Would the streaking Pride be able to take down the might Riveters empire on Star Wars night? Would the road team maintain perfection through the start (at the least) of 2018?

Spoiler: The Riveters are still undefeated.

Rolling the tape

Overall, the name of the game was speed and puck possession. Thanks to a few GIFs created by The Ice Garden’s own Mike Murphy, we can take a look a few key goals from Saturday’s game.

Just under four minutes into the game, Miye D’Oench put away the first goal of the contest, her seventh on the season.  D’Oench got the play started in the Riveters defensive zone by collecting a stray puck along the boards., we can see D’Oench start the attack on the far side of the screen. She then shuffled the puck to Bray Ketchum who drew the defense wide left, enabling Alexa Grushow to skate down the middle of the ice. Defenders Kaleigh Fratkin and Paige Harrington begin to close in on Gruschow as D’Oench sneaked in behind the defense and pokes the puck past Boston netminder Brittany Ott.

After another superb sequence of passing on the Riveters power play, defender Jenny Ryan found the rebound on her own shot to make it 2-0. In the first frame, the road team had an 18:5 advantage in official shots on goal.

The second period was the most even frame of the evening, with each team scoring one goal.  Shots on goal were 9-8 in favor of the Pride.  Alexa Gruschow collected her league-leading seventh goal of the season at the 10:49 mark.  Riveters defender Michelle Picard collects the puck in the defensive zone and sends an outlet pass to Ketchum who then shoots a cross-ice pass to Gruchow.

Less than thirty second later Janine Weber scored the first Pride goal of the game, and her first of the season.

“We had, I think a nice breakout at first and (Kathyrn Tomaselli) did all the work with a nice dangle” reflected Weber after the game. “I called for it and she slid it right over and all I had to do was tap it in.”

Tomaselli certainly earned her second assist, as she can been seen cutting through the Riveters top defensive line and Harrison Browne, drawing the defense towards her and leaving Weber free to beat Fitzgerald far post.

In the third, both teams again scored one goal each, and shots on goal were nearly even (10-8 in favor of the Riveters).  Erika Lawler picked up her first professional goal on an early power play for the Riveters. She put a slow and steady shot on net that found its way past Ott to give the Riveters a 4-1 lead.  Meagan Mangene would score the final goal after an impressive sequence of puck possession by the Pride around the 16th minute of the third and final period.

Final Takeaways

Overall, the Riveters continue to prove they are the team to beat. The players on the ice seem comfortable in their systems and with their pairings. The ability of this Riveters team to play fast, aggressive, and smart hockey for a majority of the game has separated them from the rest of the field. At times, the Riveters can fall into a less crispy version of their 2017-18 season. However, only one team - that being Buffalo last week - has been able to parlay those lapses into a lead over the Rivs. As strong as the passing and forecheck is for this team - not to mention the goaltending and defensive contributions to the attack - the Riveters will likely be defined by their ability to win the mental game.

As far as Boston, this is a team with the skill to defeat the Riveters, eventually. Consistency is the next hurdle for Boston. Early on, the shots were not falling for the Pride.  However, the three games prior to Saturday’s loss (including the loss to the Whale in overtime) showed that there is plenty of offensive potential for this Boston team.  What is missing right now is the consistency on offense.

Weber agreed, “We’ve been getting better as the games go on, we’ve been scoring goals too,” she commented on Saturday.  As for improvements, Weber would like to see her team get more shots on net and get more aggressive with the forecheck. She expects her team to continue to improve, especially as they become for familiar with the Riveters team.

She and the Pride will have their next chance against the league-leading team on Jan. 20 when the Riveters return to Warrior Ice Arena.