Before the weekend, we asked if New York could earn four points and maintain second place. The Riveters didn’t get a full sweep of the weekend, but did conclude the weekend in second place. After a tough shootout loss to Buffalo on Friday, the Riveters posted eight goals against the Connecticut Whale on Sunday. The Northford Ice Pavilion hosted two games and a total of 26 goals this weekend. Tatiana Rafter and Madison Packer joined Meghan Duggan (Boston Pride) and Hayley Skarupa (Connecticut Whale) as the four players to earn hat tricks over the weekend.
Northford shooting frenzy
On Sunday, the Riveters looked to capitalize on a struggling Connecticut team. However, with Sojung Shin nursing a minor foot injury, head coach Chad Wiseman opted to start Katie Fitzgerald after putting in extra time in Buffalo. Fitzgerald, also known as #BrickWallFitzy, showed some rust early. Halfway through the first period, Fitzgerald and the Riveters were down 4-2, and practice goalie Sarah Bryant was headed towards the net.
“It’s not the kind of hockey we like to play,” said head coach Chad Wiseman about the six goals allowed. Wiseman thought his All-Star netminder needed a break. “She got peppered there early, and she did give up a couple weaker goals, goals she doesn’t usually give up.” He pulled Fitzy, giving Bryant her first professional appearance. After a 34 second breather, Fitzgerald returned to the ice and held on to earn her fourth win.
Riveters offensive pairings
With eight goals scored on Sunday, including two hat tricks, Wiseman is hopeful Sunday’s offensive showing will build character and resilience in his team. The Riveters trailed the league in goals (29) at the start of the weekend. With a total of 14 goals over the weekend, things are starting to click on the offensive front.
With the addition of Lauren Wash and the return of Amanda Kessel, the Riveters underwent personnel changes on the offensive lines and special teams. Rafter and Packer agreed that the hat tricks on Sunday were due to good chemistry with their linemates.
“I feel really great with our systems right now,” shared Rafter. She was paired with Bray Ketchum and Miye D’Oench against Connecticut. In addition to working within the team systems, Rafter focused on specific elements of her game: “Driving hard to the net, using my size, winning puck battles and shooting the puck, those are my strengths.” Focusing on the controllable worked in Rafter’s favor. The forward recorded her first goals since opening weekend, all while battling the flu.
Packer also felt good about her power play pairings. Two of her three goals were assisted by former Wisconsin teammate Courtney Burke. As you can see, the plays were nearly identical.
“All three goals were my teammates making good plays, and I was just in the right place at the right time,” shared Packer. For the first two goals, Packer sneaked in behind the Connecticut defense to redirect the serve from Burke at the point. “Courtney and I used to run that same play in college,” said Packer. The combo, along with Kessel, Janine Weber, and Milica McMillen were an effective unit against the Whale. With Buffalo coming into town next Saturday, it will be interesting to see if this group can keep pace with the best power play unit in the league.
Focused on the Beauts
The Riveters dropped a heart breaker in Buffalo on Friday, losing 4-3 in an overtime shootout. After falling behind twice, Kessel brought the Riveters even twice with her first two goals of the season. However, it was the Beauts that walked away with the victory in the six round shootout.
This is the third overtime loss for the Riveters and the second shootout series that produced no goals. New York is 0-10 in shootouts, and neglected to convert on five of six power play opportunities.
Again, the Riveters are focused on playing a complete game. Said Packer about the upcoming rematch with the Beauts: “I think we need to be more physical, get out of our own head a little bit, and just come and compete for the full game.”
Rafter agreed, “Playing a team game for 60 minutes is what makes us successful...sometimes we can be our own worst enemy.” In addition to the task at hand, Rafter is looking forward to battling against her former team: “I always love playing Buffalo, I get to play against all my best friends and that adds a little fuel to the fire too (laughs).”
The Beauts makes the second of two remaining trips to Newark this Saturday. Buffalo will look to come even with the Riveters in points, while New York will look to break away from the pack.