The first playoff game for the NWHL this year will take place on Thurday March 7th at 7p EST. It features the two teams that finished fourth and fifth in the season standings. Finishing fourth place, and the host of this playoff match up, is the Metropolitan Riveters. Unfortunately, finishing last in the standing is the Connecticut Whale. The game will take place at the RJW Barnabas Health Hockey House.
Last year these two teams met in the Isobel Cup semi final game which saw the Riveters win that game, and would go on to win the championship that year, beating the Buffalo Beauts in the finals.
A quick look back at that game, the goalie match up last year was Katie Fitzgerald for the Riveters, and Sydney Rossman for the Whale. The Riveters jumped out to a quick lead, after a minute into the game, the goal coming from Rebecca Russo. This got the crowd going and the Riveters dominated play. However at the end of the first period, the Riveters only had a 1-0 lead.
In the second period, it was more of the same, dominance from the Riveters and eventually a breakthrough for them, as Erika Lawler would net a goal a little over halfway through the second period.
Unfortunately in the third period, the wheels came off from the Whale. About halfway through, when the Whale were on the power play, Madison Packer got a breakaway and scored while short handed. This really deflated any possible notion of a Whale comeback, because shortly after, the Riveters would get two more goals in quick fashion. Goals coming from Bray Ketchum and Kelly Nash. Rossman would depart from the game after the Ketchum goal and Keira Goin would finish the game. It ended with the final score being 5-0 in favor of the home team.
Boxscore for this game can be found here:
Fast forward a year later and both teams are again meeting in the playoffs. Perfect time for some revenge? Possibly. We do know that the Riveters will be starting Katie Fitzgerald on Thursday, info provided from Mike Murphy.
How have the Whale fared against the Riveters this season? Decently. Their record against them is 2-1-1 and they are also 1-0-1 against them in Newark, NJ.
The last time that the Whale and the Riveters matched up was on January 6th, a 6-3 victory for the Riveters. However it was Maria Sorokina in net for the Riveters, and the previous loss to the Riveters was back on November 25th, a shootout loss with Kimberly Sass in net.
Why bring that up? Well, the last time the Whale faced off against the Riveters with Katie Fitzgerald in net was all the way back on December 2nd, which was a 4-0 victory for the Whale in Pittsburgh; and the first game that these two teams squared off against each other was all the way back on November 18th, a 2-1 victory for the Whale with, you guessed it, Katie Fitzgerald in net. So this year, the Whale are a perfect 2-0 against Katie Fitzgerald.
Will the Whale continue to be the kryptonite against Katie Fitzgerald? Or will Fitzgerald go on another spectacular run in the playoffs like she did last year, posting two shutouts?
The game can be watched here:
3 Players to Watch
Audra Richards: The Minnesota native and Riveters rookie has had an incredible year for them, scoring 8 goals! 6 of her 8 goals have come against the Whale, including a hat trick! She is the only player in the NWHL to record a hat trick this season!
Katerina Mrázová: The Czech international, and Whale rookie has put up some stellar numbers this year, she leads the team in points with 12 (6g, 6a). 6 of her 12 points on the year have come against the Riveters (4g, 2a).
Shannon Doyle: The Whale blue liner has had a great year this season. She is one of the most consistent players for them. Against the Riveters, she has 2 goals and 2 assists for 4 points. Both of her goals against the Riveters have been incredible, they include a game winner in the final minute and a sick deke against Katie Fitzgerald.