Metropolitan Riveters Advance to Isobel Cup with 5-0 Victory Over Connecticut Whale
The Metropolitan Riveters battled the Connecticut Whale in the second of the National Women’s Hockey League’s two semi-final games of the 2018 Isobel Cup Playoffs on Sunday night.
The winner of the matchup would make their first trip to the Isobel Cup Final where they would face off against the defending Isobel Cup Champions, the Buffalo Beauts after their overtime come from behind victory over the Boston Pride on Saturday night. Sunday night’s matchup was pretty much an evenly fought battle for most of the game.
The Riveters got off to a quick start as forward Rebecca Russo bolted into the offensive zone after taking a pass from line mate, Erika Lawler to open the scoring just over a minute into the game, much to the delight of the packed house at the RWJ Barnabas Hockey House in Newark, New Jersey. Madison Packer picked up the secondary assist on the tally.
Both netminders, Katie Fitzgerald of the Riveters and Sydney Rossman of the Whale, with the help of their teams in front of them were able to hang tough through the opening period and keep the game close. After one period of play the Riveters led the Whale both on the scoreboard (1-0) and in the shots department (9-6).
When the middle frame began both teams continued to play each other tough. Between the first and second, the two clubs managed to successfully kill off powerplay chances. The Riveters eventually wore down the Whale in the middle frame, as Lawler was able to slip one by Rossman to give the home team a 2-0 lead at the 13:32 mark. Russo and Packer put up the helpers on the goal.
The Riveters penalty killers were able to kill off a 5-on-3 that carried over into the third period. Then at the 10:18 mark of the third, Packer was able to take a shorthanded breakaway and find the back of the net with what may have been the back breaker for the Whale.
Just over 3:20 after Parker’s unassisted breakaway gave the Riveters a 3-0 lead, forward Bray Ketchum was able to light the lamp and celebrate her birthday with a goal. Defender Kelsey Koelzer picked up the assist on the tally. The Whale decided to make a goalie change after the Ketchum goal.
The goalie change did not turn out how the Whale hoped it would as Riveters forward Kelly Nash was able to put the puck behind Keira Goin almost 30 seconds later. The line of Russo (1 goal & 1 assist), Lawler (1 G & 1 A) and Packer (1 G & 2 A) helped lead the Riveters advance to the Isobel Cup Final next weekend on home ice.
Riveters fed off Emotion of the Fans
Russo said that the team fed off the emotion of the fans in the house, which helped to take it up a notch today. She added, “We knew what we had to do today.”
Both Lawler and Russo noted that while the score was 5-0, the Whale played tough making it feel like a hard-fought battle. Lawler added, “We were persistent tonight.”
When asked about her breakaway goal, Packer told the press corps that she did not realize she was on the break until she hit the top of the circle, where she was able to take her shot and find the back of the net.
After the final horn sounded, Lawler was named the third star of the game, Russo was the second star and Fitzgerald got the number star after turning aside all 13 shots the Whale threw at her.
Isobel Cup Final Returns to Newark
The 2018 Isobel Cup Final will mark the second time that the RWJ Barnabas Health Hockey House will serve as the host venue. The Pride won the inaugural Isobel Cup Final in Newark two seasons ago. Last season the Beauts got their revenge over the Pride as they defeated Boston to raise the Isobel Cup last season at the Tsongas Center at UMass-Lowell.
This season’s matchup between the top two teams in the NWHL this season, will be a rematch of last season’s semifinal battle. The Beauts defeated the Riveters last season at the RWJ Barnabas Hockey House to advance to the 2017 Isobel Cup Final.
Battle Between Both NWHL Clubs with Ties to NHL
Prior to the 2017-2018 season, the Riveters and New Jersey Devils formed a strategic partnership. Through this partnership, the Riveters opened the season at the Prudential Center as part of a historic double header with their game against the Pride in the afternoon and the Devils taking on the Arizona Coyotes in the evening.
The Devils sent over some of their hype crew to help fuel the energy in the building for the Riveters semifinal game.
The Beauts who were bought by Buffalo Sabres owners, Terry and Kim Pegula shortly after the New Year, have gone on a 10-game run and have not lost since becoming part of the One Buffalo family.
The battle of the two NWHL teams with connections to the National Hockey League will faceoff March 26 at 3:00 PM at the RWJ Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark. Izzy will be in the building for one of the two clubs to hoist over their heads after the final horn.
It comes down to just one game for all the marbles. A game seven type atmosphere will play out next Sunday afternoon in Newark.