First things first, Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday Meeri Räisänen! Happy Birthday to you! And Many More!! Is there anything sweeter than getting a chance to play a professional hockey game on your birthday?
That is exactly what Meeri Räisänen got to do on Saturday. She put on a spectacular performance against the Riveters, in which she blanked them for an incredible shutout in Pittsburgh. She officially was credited at the end of the game with 31 saves and it earned her the first star of the game. It was some of the best goaltending I’ve ever witnessed. She made some insane stops and really timely saves, especially when the Whale needed it the most throughout the game. She has played really strong through the last three games against the Riveters. How good? In the three games, she has made 93 saves out of the 97 shots she has faced in them. That’s truly unbelievable!
A recap of the shutout in Pittsburgh, in the first period, the Whale jumped out to an early lead. The goal coming from Nina Rodgers, it was her first goal of the year, and it came off a rebound of a Taylor Marchin shot. It seemed to settle the team down as there was good back and forth action between the two teams. The only other good offensive chance was a Juana Baribeau semi breakaway that was stopped by Katie Fitzgerald. The Riveters led in the shot department seven to four at the end of the period.
In the second period, it was more of the same. Good back and forth action with not much ice being given up as the defenses were blocking shots and the goalies were making some good saves. The breakthrough came at a little over halfway in the period, when a Jordan Brickner shot was tipped in front by Nina Rodgers and fell on the stick of the hottest Whale player, Katerina Mrázová. She scored her team leading fifth goal of the season, and her fourth goal in three games. Again the Riveters led the period in shots, twelve to seven.
In the third period, saw some more of that great action that saw some good scoring chances between the two teams. However at about the eight minute mark of the third, a Riveters turnover lead to a breakaway for Shannon Doyle, who deked Fitzgerald, giving the Whale an insurance marker they really needed. For Doyle, it was her second goal of the season, and her second goal in three games. Putting the icing on the cake was Juana Baribeau. She stashed home the empty net goal sealing the victory for the Whale. It was Baribeau’s first goal of the year, and it must have felt good for her, making up for some of the penalties she had taken earlier in the game. The Riveters also led the shot department twelve to seven.
In what I am dubbing the “Räisänen effect” the team has played better in front of her. The defense has stepped up and it was very evident yesterday. They kept the Riveters to the outside, they cleared away any rebound chances, and made some key blocks as the game when on. The penalty kill was once again spectacular; they were once again perfect in this game against the Riveters. The Riveters were 0 for 4 on the power play yesterday; and in the last three games, the Riveters were a combined 0 for 13 on their power play. The last time the Whale were scored on while on the penalty kill; it was against the Boston Pride on October 20th. Now the penalty kill is operating at still league best 95.7%, and it comes down to the defense and goaltending.
So what have we learned about the Whale in the last three games they have played against the Riveters? I think in the last three games, they have shown that they have turned a corner. When you think about it, they started off 0-3, and some may have thought, oh no here we go again. In these last three games against the defending Isobel Cup Champions, I think they have proven that there is no quit in the team. They have gotten a point in the last three games and are not in the basement in the standings. I am looking forward to the continued building chemistry that the team has developed and seeing how the rest of the season will play out.
3 Stars of the Game
Nina Rodgers: She had an incredible game getting her first goal of the season and adding an assist on the second goal of the game. This performance now pushes her point totals to three and she is skating really well on the Whale top line.
Katerina Mrázová: What more can be said about the performances she has been able to turn in these six games played? She adds another goal and pushes her point totals to the team leading seventh of the season.
Meeri Räisänen: As if there was ever a doubt. She got the best gift a goalie could ever ask for, a birthday shutout!
You can check out the boxscore here:
It is a quick turnaround for the Whale, as the next game they will play will be, once again, on the road against the Buffalo Beauts at the HarborCenter in Buffalo. The game will be played at 6p on Saturday December 8th.