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Riveters sign top pick Kelsey Koelzer

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Connor Murphy

The New York Riveters just made their own version of a “deadline move” late in the regular season. Today Chad Wiseman signed the top pick of the 2016 NWHL Draft. Kelsey Koelzer, the outstanding defender from Princeton, will practice with the Riveters tonight after signing a contract to play with the Riveters for the remainder of the 2016-17 season and the 2017 Playoffs.

From the league’s official press release:

“Being part of the NWHL was a priority for me because I want to take my development from four years at Princeton and utilize it playing with and against some of the best women’s hockey players in the world,” said Koelzer. “I am sad that my collegiate career has come to an end, but I was lucky to play alongside amazing players and coaches. I'm hoping to use that experience to contribute to the remainder of the Riveters’ season in any way I can."

Koelzer was one of the ten finalists this year for the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, presented by the USA Hockey Foundation to the best player in Division I women’s college hockey. In 128 games over four seasons with Princeton, the 5-foot-9 defender had 39 goals and 61 assists for 100 points. Before college, Koelzer developed in the New Jersey Rockets program.

“After drafting her last year and closely following her outstanding senior season, we’re ecstatic to have Kelsey begin her Riveters career today,” said Riveters GM and coach Chad Wiseman. “She is a dynamic defender who will make us a better team.”

Koelzer adds speed, size and lethal offensive instincts to an already dynamic Riveters’ blue line.

Born in Pennsylvania, Koelzer has ties to the New Jersey area. She played her developmental hockey with the New Jersey Rockets girls’ hockey program.

This is the first time a player has signed a contract this late in an NWHL season. It will be worth keeping an eye on the league’s other three teams, especially the Connecticut Whale, as the playoffs approach.

No stranger to history, Koelzer was the first-ever African-American player to be selected first overall in any professional women's hockey player draft in North America. She had 100 points in 128 games with the Princeton Tigers.