The NWHL had their playoff play-in game tonight; as it was the Metropolitan Riveters against the Connecticut Whale in Newark. The two teams had split the season series and were headed for an epic confrontation. At the end of the game, it was the Riveters who came out on top by a final score of 5-2. They now have the honor of flying to Minnesota and taking on the red hot Whitecaps on Sunday at TRIA Rink.
A quick recap of the game. In the first period, the Riveters were dominating play early. Until a counterattacking rush by the Whale led to a goal coming from the captain Emily Fluke. Four minutes later, the Riveters would get one back, as Courtney Burke came around the net, and her shot hit the post and went in. Two minutes later, Whale rookie sensation Katerina Mrázová showed off some incredible moves and roofed a shot, off her backhand beating Katie Fitzgerald, giving the Whale a 2-1 lead.
Three minutes later, the Riveters would claw back in the game before the end of the first, Alexa Gruschow would find herself in-between the hash marks and she fired a shot that beat a screened Erin O’Neil. The first period would end tied at 2.
There was only one penalty called in the first, and it was late in the period. Why do I bring that up? In the second period, there was a grand total of 9 penalties called throughout the period. 5 penalties were dolled out against the Whale and 4 penalties were called on the Riveters. Unfortunately, there was nothing doing on both power plays as the penalty kills were performing phenomenally. At the end of the second period, there was no scoring and heading into the third, the game was still tied at 2.
In the third, there were no penalties called, as the referee’s decided to swallow their whistles and let the players play. The Riveters got off to a quick start into the third as rookie Audra Richards continued to plague the Whale, sniping a shot over Erin O’Neil. The Whale pressed play hard, and had a few great chances, but Katie Fitzgerald shut the door on them. Late in the period, while the Whale were pressing the attack, Riveters forward Alexa Gruschow was sprung on a breakaway and deked to her back hand beating Erin O’Neil for a goal.
Audra Richards would add the empty net at the end of the game, sealing the victory for the Riveters. Erin O’Neil made 22 saves off of 26 shots, and Katie Fitzgerald made 24 saves of 26 shots.
For the Connecticut Whale, it means that their season is over. Unfortunately with an 11 game losing streak to boot. The team consistently plays hard and has proven to be able to skate with the best of them. What an incredible year the Whale have had, and I’m looking forward to the players continued development and taking the league by storm next season.
3 Stars of the Game
Katerina Mrázová: The incredible rookie skated hard and had some incredible dekes to boot. Her hard work got her a goal and an assist on the scoreboard.
Emily Fluke: The captain got the team going, scoring the first goal of the game. She made some great plays in the offensive zone that led to some significant chances for the Whale.
Shannon Doyle: She’s the textbook example of what hard work is supposed to be, she was flying all over the ice. Jumping up on the rush in the offensive zone and blocking shots on the back end. She contributed with an assist, which is her 5th against the Riveters this season.
Audra Richards: She really likes playing against the Whale. She had already scored 6 goals against them in the regular season, she added 2 more to that tally. One of them is a game winner.
Alexa Gruschow: She contributed with two goals on the score sheet. Both goals were huge; as the first one tied the game at 2 and the second one, on the breakaway, gave the Riveters an insurance marker.
Miye D’Oench: The Riveters forward played her last home game for them, and she had an incredible performance, tallying two assists.
The boxscore for this epic game can be found here: