Metropolitan Riveters Win First Isobel Cup Championship
The Metropolitan Riveters welcomed reigning Isobel Cup Champions, the Buffalo Beauts to the RWJ Barnabas Health Hockey House on Sunday afternoon for the chance to capture their first Isobel Cup while dethroning the current champions.
For most of the game both netminders, Katie Fitzgerald, of the Riveters and Amanda Leveille, of the Beauts battled hard to keep their teammates hopes at raising the Isobel Cup going strong. The standing room only crowd was treated to a great defensive battle between two top goaltenders in the National Women’s Hockey League.
During the regular season the two teams met six times, splitting the season series with three wins apiece. Sunday afternoon’s winner take all, one game final was in fact an actual game seven type atmosphere.
Riveters & Beauts form partnership with Devils & Sabres
The Beauts came into the championship game riding a 10-game winning streak, not having lost since Buffalo Sabres owners, Terry and Kim Pegula bought them making them part of the One Buffalo family. The Riveters, who became strategic partners with the New Jersey Devils prior to the 2017-2018 season, won their first eleven games.
NWHL Leading Scorer Alexa Gruschow Goal all that was Needed
The Riveters opened the scoring 5:33 into the opening period as league Most Valuable Player, Alexa Gruschow was able to channel her inner, Bobby Orr and to get a shot off from midair and give her teammates a 1-0 lead to work with. Miye D’Oench picked up the helper on the tally.
Gruschow said, “I had my line mate, Miye back. I entered the zone with the puck, and she called for it, and she had great patience and poise. Once she gave it back to me I shot it and the puck squeezed through the defender’s legs, and somehow I got the shot up high.”
She continued and with a laugh said, “I don’t know how it went in, I was falling down. They said words can’t describe it. I am just ecstatic.”
The two top teams continued to battle trying to solve the opposing netminders for the rest of the period, Fitzgerald came up with a huge save about two and half minutes after the Gruschow goal, to keep the Riveters 1-0 lead in tact. As the first period came to a close, the Riveters led 1-0 with the Beauts holding a slight edge in shots (10-9).
15 seconds into the middle period, Jacquie Greco of the Beauts was called for interference giving the Riveters their second power play chance of the game. The second period was evenly played as the defenses and goalies held strong not giving up much of a chance to either side.
Katie Fitzgerald & Amanda Leveille Stood Tall Throughout the Game
After 40 minutes the Riveters maintained their 1-0 lead. Fitzgerald and Leveille turned aside all five shots they each faced that middle frame. The third period Buffalo kept trying to fire shots at Fitzgerald to no avail, turning aside all 13 sent her way, including two that went off her mask.
In 120 minutes during the 2018 Isobel Cup Playoffs, Fitzgerald proved to be a brick wall not allowing a single goal. During the semifinal matchup last week against the Connecticut Whale she put up a hard fought 5-0 victory and stopped all 28 shots the Beauts sent her way during the Isobel Cup Final.
Sold Out Crowd: “We Want the Cup”
For the final few minutes of the game the sold-out crowd got louder trying to encourage the Riveters to hang on, even starting to chant “We Want the Cup.” As the final horn sounded the Riveters team climbed over the boards and proceeded to mob their netminder in jubilation.
Katie Fitzgerald Named MVP Not Yielding a Goal in Postseason
Fitzgerald’s efforts throughout the playoffs earned her the MVP honors for the 2018 Isobel Cup Playoffs. In talking about her two saves with her head she said, “I think if anything it made me a bit more confident that I was in the right spot. I was square to the shooter. I probably could have caught the last one, but I just wanted to take it off the noggin for some reason.”
The Riveters have come a long way since the inaugural season in 2016. Year one for the NWHL, they finished last in the league, but coach Chad Wiseman was able to turn it around and get them a second-place finish last year, before falling to the Beauts in the 2017 semifinal on this same ice.
This season’s Isobel Cup Final victory avenges their heartbreaking loss last year, all while showing that they were able to build themselves up with the right depth and chemistry to be successful. The Riveters did not lose a game when, D’Oench, who had the assist on the game’s lone goal by Gruschow, was in the lineup.
Wiseman said, “I can’t say enough about these girls, and how proud I am to be their coach. Not just this year, but since the inaugural season. Not just this year, but since the inaugural season. They earned this, they earned this tonight – from Fitzy to our D.”
Wiseman: “I thought it was a great game. It was great entertainment on both sides….”
He continued, “I thought it was a great hockey game. It was great entertainment on both sides – the momentum switched sides and went back and forth quite often, maybe too much for my liking. But at the end of the day, this team earned it, and they got the win.”
Team captain, Ashley Johnston added, “Fitzy was rock solid. We built our team from the goalie out.”
Harrison Browne joins Corinne Buie as Only Two Time Isobel Cup Winners
Riveters forward Harrison Browne, who played for the Beauts last season joins Beauts forward, Corinne Buie as the only two-time Isobel Cup winners. Kourtney Kunichika and Meghan Duggan are the only two players to play for the losing squad in two of the three Isobel Cup Finals. Kunichika, Browne and Buie are the only players that have participated in all three Isobel Cup Finals to date.
Photo of the Month