The dust has settled and only one team remains unbeaten in the NWHL. Minnesota swept a pair of one-goal games from the Buffalo Beauts, strengthening their stranglehold on the league standings.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Riveters bested the Boston Pride for their first win of the season, snapping a five-game skid.
Let’s take a look at who’s hot, who’s not and who to keep your eye on after an eventful Week Four.
Trending up: Amanda Leveille, MIN | 2 wins, 69/72 saves vs BUF, 6-0 on the season
Reigning goaltender of the year Amanda Leveille is having the best homecoming since Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. The University of Minnesota product is unbeaten in her first season as a Whitecap, passing her toughest test to date by stealing two nail-biters from the Beauts.
Out-dueling Shannon Szabados is quite the accomplishment in and of itself. To do it twice in one weekend while battling for league supremacy? That’s a heck of a feather in the cap.
Leveille was called upon to make a myriad of tricky saves throughout the weekend. The Beauts, who had not surrendered a goal heading into the weekend, were going to be stingy defensively. Goals were to come at a premium.
Lev answered the call by turning aside 35 shots on Saturday and 34 more on Sunday. The Minnesota Whitecaps have not trailed at any point this season.
She now sits just four wins behind Boston’s Brittany Ott for the all-time wins lead (26). Her performance earned her the NWHL VEDA Player of the Week Award.
Trending down: Buffalo’s powerplay | 0-for-4 in 2 games, 0-for-12 on the season
The Buffalo Beauts’ powerplay has come up empty-handed in each of their first 12 attempts on the season. Last year, their special teams unit converted 16.7% of the time. They struck 12 times on 72 tries.
By this point in the season last year, the Beauts had four powerplay goals on 23 attempts. Granted, it’s understandable why they might be struggling, considering the roster turnover they’ve undergone this past off-season. Newcomers Blake Bolden and Savannah Harmon are learning to run the point in a new system. Kelly Babstock and Dani Cameranesi are different faces up front.
Incidentally, Cameranesi scored on a penalty shot last weekend against Minnesota.
For this particular group, it’s hard not to feel like they only need one to get their mojo flowing. With so many new faces (Emily Pfalzer included, considering she was absent last year to play in the Olympics) quarterbacking the special teams, all they need is time to settle in.
Kendall Coyne Schofield and Hannah Brandt wreaked havoc on the Beauts’ blueliners while on the penalty kill, constantly forcing errors. As a result, the entire powerplay looked to be playing on their heels. All Buffalo could muster were short-lived entries and retreats back into the neutral zone when passing lanes were swiftly cut off.
They’ll have a chance to step things up in a doubleheader with Boston in three weeks’ time. The Pride have allowed a powerplay goal in their last two games against the Riveters and Whale.
Speaking of the Riveters...
Trending up: Rebecca Russo, MET | 2 goals, 1 GWG, 9 SOG vs BOS
Kendall Coyne Schofield lodged eight shots-on-goal Sunday afternoon, per the NWHL box score. Gigi Marvin, Kelly Babstock and Madison Packer have each tallied seven in a game this season.
No one has pestered opposing netminders with nine shots on goal in a single game this season. No one, that is, except for Rebecca Russo.
None were more important than her ninth, which found the back of the net with just 3 seconds remaining in regulation time. Her last-second heroics finally propelled the proverbial monkey off of the Riveters’ collective backs, earning their first win of the season.
After a terrific skill play by Amanda Kessel to keep an airborne puck in the Boston zone, Chelsea Ziadie’s shot from the point snuck its way to the far post, where Russo was waiting to pot the game-winner.
HIGHLIGHTS: If you turned this one off early Saurday night, you missed @russooo18 winning it for the @Riveters with 3️⃣ seconds left! Rivs get their first win of the season, 3-2, over @TheBostonPride. pic.twitter.com/nrPOrmV8e1— NWHL (@NWHL) October 29, 2018
Russo is considered more of a pass-first player, having collected 21 assists in her first 34 games in the NWHL. But her shot generation is one of her strongest assets. Last season, she averaged 2.8 shots per game and converted 20.45% of the time- an outrageous clip.
With Miye D’Oench returning to the lineup soon, the Riveters offense may finally be on the rise.
Trending down: Minnesota’s schedule | No games until Dec. 1
The Whitecaps have played six games this season, as have the Metropolitan Riveters. Boston and Connecticut have only played three. By nature of the Whitecaps’ proximity (or lack thereof) to the other four NWHL teams, their schedule is mostly doubleheaders and extended road trips.
As such, they have the entire month of November off. Looking ahead, they will also have the entire month of February off.
I completely see the logic of it. Logistics are a challenge and the league is working to make it as cohesive as possible.
That said, I lament the lack of Whitecaps hockey for the next month. They have been that much fun to watch.
Jonna Curtis and Katie McGovern are tied with Buffalo’s Maddie Elia for the goal-scoring lead. Curtis sits atop the league still with nine points. Lee Stecklein leads the league in assists. Amanda Leveille leads all starters in goals-against average, save percentage and of course, wins.
McGovern is the Whitecap who ended Buffalo’s two-game shutout streak, becoming the first NWHL player to get the best of Canadian super-goalie Shannon Szabados.
But that only covers the tip of the iceberg. This team is loaded with talent. If there was any doubt that Minnesota could make noise in their inaugural season in the league, they have stomped that out hard.
Not to mention their fans, who have packed TRIA Rink every game, selling out multiple games. State of Hockey and whatnot.
So yes. While the break may be necessary for the rest of the league to catch up, I’ll miss watching Whitecaps hockey in the interim. Their next set of games is a home doubleheader with the Boston Pride.
Trending up: Emily Field, BOS | 2 assists, 2 SOG, +1 vs MET
Let’s talk about one of the unsung heroes of the Boston Pride, Emily Field.
An original member of the Pride, Field has never been the heralded star of the team. With so many big names filling Boston’s roster their first few years, Field was mostly considered a role player with a propensity to get pucks to the net.
Last season, she erupted for four points skating on the top line alongside Jillian Dempsey and Dana Trivigno. Though she hit a dry spell directly after that, she finished the year on a four-game point streak, becoming a key cog for Boston’s struggling Skarupa-less offense.
That point streak has extended into this season, as she has notched four points in her first three games.
Field, a two-time all-star, is now stepping into more of a leadership role in terms of offensive production. She has a significantly better supporting cast around her, with the return of Skarupa and Gigi Marvin, plus the addition of Toni Ann Miano on the blueline.
Boston will be a competitive team this year, and this could very well be Field’s best season to date.