When you look at a 7-1 scoreboard after the horn sounds for the end of the game it's hard to find silver linings for how the Riveters played last night. There is an understandable urge to just scuttle the memory of the game from one's memory if you're a Riveters fan, but it would be a mistake to do that. Seven goals against is a staggering number and one that the Riveters, as a team, will have to work hard to get past this week, but before the game got out of hand in the third period the Riveters were playing good hockey in front of an amazing group of fans at Aviator.
It's clear that there are still some issues with shot selection and zone-entry, but the power play looked better, the penalty kill looked better, and if not for the Pride's dominance in the transition game the scoreboard might have had some very different numbers on it after sixty minutes of hockey.
The game was delayed approximately an hour and a half thanks to the Pride having issues getting to the right location. Riveters' players were visibly antsy to get onto the ice and start playing hockey in front of their home crowd. To their credit, the team passed the time by signing autographs, posing for pictures, talking to fans and the media, and (believe it or not) dancing. Janine Weber was also kind enough to entertain a small audience to a brief display of her juggling skills with some clementines while the Riveters and their fans waited for Knight and the Boston Pride to get to Aviator for New York's home opener.
Those who thought the Riveters' tilt against the Connecticut Whale from October 11th was chippy and nasty were in for a surprise when Boston finally arrived at Aviator last night. It didn't take long at all for the boards to rattle with big and sometimes questionable hits, and for several fracases to break out in a game that featured some of the most physical hockey we've seen yet in the NWHL.
Nana Fujimoto had some equipment issues during the pregame skate and had to step off the ice to work on one of her skates. She didn't look incredibly comfortable with her gear even after taking to the ice for the start of the game. It didn't take long for the Riveters' coaching staff to question whether or not they had made the right choice to stick with Fujimoto in net when Zoe Hickel of the Pride scored in the opening minute of the game. Hilary Knight picked up the only assist on the play.
With 2:26 left in the first period Brianna Decker scored a sensational goal on the rush with a backhand roofed shot that beat Fujimoto the way it would have gotten past any goaltender on the planet. Blake Bolden, who was lightning on the ice for the Pride, picked up the assist on the play that gave the Pride a 2-0 lead.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Brianna Decker (<a href="https://twitter.com/Bdecker14">@Bdecker14</a>) scores the second goal for <a href="https://twitter.com/TheBostonPride">@TheBostonPride</a>. Score 2-0 into first intermission. <a href="http://t.co/pXAMvlvpnn">pic.twitter.com/pXAMvlvpnn</a></p>— NWHL Gifs (@nwhlgifs) <a href="https://twitter.com/nwhlgifs/status/655911331288215553">October 19, 2015</a></blockquote>
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However, it wasn't all about Decker, Knight, and the Boston Pride in the first period. The Riveters came close several times in what might have been the best period of NWHL hockey they have played this season and they did it against a stacked Pride team that was without Gigi Marvin and Kacey Bellamy. Almost everything looked better compared to the game against the Whale in the first period, especially in the transition game and in the defensive zone and it had to be against a scary Pride lineup that seemed to never miss on any of the chances they earned or were given.
Beth Hanrahan was outstanding for the Riveters in the first period and she may have been robbed of a good goal that was waved off by the officials. After Meghan Fardelmann drove hard to the net following a hard, high shot from Hanrahan taken from the right circle, Hanrahan flipped the puck over the pad of Lauren Slebodnick. It appeared that Fardelmann either touched the puck with a high stick or, perhaps, with her glove before it went off of Slebodnick, hit the ice, and Hanrahan got her stick to it. I'll have video analysis of the goal later in the week. Nana Fujimoto was strong for the Riveters in the first period despite allowing two goals, including Hickel's opening minute tally. Both teams took two minor penalties in a game that showed some early sparks of emotion and agitation that would later burst into flame in the second and third periods.
Some solid goaltending from Fujimoto and some great early pressure from the Riveters kept the second period scoreless until the Riveters earned a big power play opportunity when Marissa Gedman of the Pride tripped Janine Weber in the slot. On the ensuing power play the Riveters allowed a shorthanded goal to Brianna Decker who was set up by Corinne Buie. The shorthanded goal was a big blow both to the Riveters' hard-earned momentum and their chances of getting back into the game. After Decker's second goal, the game that was already plenty chippy took a turn for the worse.
By the end of the second period six penalties were assessed in a game where the referees really let a lot of things go. Only 50 seconds after Hilary Knight was assessed a penalty for hooking, a huge fight broke out at the 17:50 mark that robbed the Riveters of a great scoring chance. Madison Packer was given a double minor for roughing and Blake Bolden was sent to the box for roughing, although the referees clearly missed some infractions from both teams in the chaos. Afterwards, Ammerman and Decker had a lengthy conversation near the penalty boxes while they waited to talk to the referees. In the third period Ammerman also had words with Hilary Knight while both players were on their benches when things had gotten a little more out of hand.
A very chippy game.
All of the open ice set the stage for Gabie Figueroa of the New York Riveters to score the first Riveters goal on Aviator ice in the regular season. I'll be posting a video of Figueroa's goal later tonight in case you missed her dazzling display of speed and hustle to get New York on the board with less than three minutes left in the second period during four on four hockey.
After a physical, penalty-filled second period the Riveters trailed the Pride by a score of 3-1 but had momentum on their side thanks to Gabie Figueroa's big goal.
Until the Pride broke through for their fourth goal of the game just before the halfway point of the third period Shenae Lundberg had been solid for the Riveters since coming into the game halfway through the second period in relief of Nana Fujimoto. The blame for the five goals Lundberg can't really be placed on her shoulders alone. After Jordan Smelker broke through at 10:49 of the first period on the man advantage, the Riveters' energy and compete level nosedived.
After a Blake Bolden penalty for interference at 13:24 the Riveters, who were clearly frustrated, took three straight minor penalties in the closing half of the third period including a bench penalty for delay of the game. The Pride enjoyed open shooting lanes that were given by a defeated and frustrated Riveters' team in the second half of the third period and were unselfish with the puck ensuring that Lundberg saw only the most dangerous of shots.
In the final six minutes the Pride put the game out of reach by scoring two goals in 29 seconds. Corinne Buie scored from Zoe Hickel with 5:19 left in the period and less than half a minute later Blake Bolden, who looked amazing all night for the Pride, broke through for her first goal of the season.The Riveters didn't do enough for Lundberg in the third period, hopefully the next time she gets between the pipes they'll play some better hockey for her.
A second major fracas broke out in the third period when tempers flared yet again. It was enough to get the bleachers thundering at Aviator, but it didn't do anything to change the outcome of the game. It isn't much of a silver lining, but the energetic home crowd was reminded time and again that their team didn't go down without a fight to the Pride even after the game was put out of reach thanks to the outstanding play of Hickel, Bolden, Decker, Knight, Buie, and Pelkey.
Every team that the New York Riveters have faced in their two preseason games and two regular season games thus far have described them as strong and physical, but their strength and physicality was used in the wrong ways for the second half of the home opener last night and although it energized the crowd it also brought out the best in the Pride who retaliated by scoring goals and refusing to back down to the Riveters' rough and tumble style of play.
Ott was sensational for the Pride when she came into the game and was able to stay focused despite all of the drama and the lopsided score. As the teams lined up for handshakes met the scoreboard at Aviator read; BOS 7, NYR 1.
There were a lot of ice packs on the legs of both teams after this one.
Some Final Thoughts
We're now two games into the 2015-16 season and the Riveters have been outscored two to eleven in six periods of NWHL hockey. That is a pretty grim figure. It's important to remember that the season is still young and that this team doesn't enjoy the level of preexisting chemistry and familiarity that the other three rosters in the league do, but it has to get better for the Riveters and they all know it. The Riveters and Wiseman didn't offer any excuses after the game for their performance. They were full of smiles and laughter when signing autographs and meeting the fans, but when talking to the media it was clear that the team's pride took some bumps and bruises last night. In interviews after the game both head coach Chad Wiseman and Ashley Johnston expressed their frustration with the Riveters' performance and they both made it clear that the 7-1 blowout was unacceptable. Wiseman was seriously dissatisfied with the team's work ethic and compete level. Something tells me we'll see a determined and thoroughly pissed-off Riveters team take to the ice at Aviator on Sunday the 25th against the Connecticut Whale.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">In his postgame presser, Chad Wiseman emphasized that the club needed better compete level. Thought they did a good job blocking shots.</p>— New York Riveters (@NYRiveters) <a href="https://twitter.com/NYRiveters/status/655949691146870784">October 19, 2015</a></blockquote>
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It was amazing to see how little the delayed game affected the Pride but seemed to trip up the Riveters. What was even more amazing was how patient, enthusiastic, and understanding the fans at Aviator Sports and Events Center were. I made a point to mention it on twitter on the drive home after the game, but the melting pot of hockey fans at Aviator last night was a very special group. If you're reading this and you were one of the many that stayed for the whole game late into a Sunday night, my hat goes off to you. I couldn't believe how loud Aviator got for Figueroa's goal, it was amazing.
Key Performances for the Riveters
Ashley Johnston was hard on herself and her performance when talking to the media last night, but she was once again the Riveters' best defenseman on the ice and arguably the best skater on the team. Johnston battled with Hilary Knight all game and made it clear that she needed to get in better condition and work harder to prepare because she got beat a few times. Johnston has been the first name on my list after each and every Riveters' game both in the preseason and in the regular season. She's a star in the making in New York and I honestly don't know what this team would look like without her amazing two-way play, strength around her own net, and shutdown ability.
Beth Hanrahan's outstanding performance in the first period deserved a goal, but bad fortune once again intervened to blunt the Riveters' offensive production. Hanrahan was all over the ice in the first period and played a smart, physical game even when things started boiling over. Her chemistry with Janine Weber was once again on display, but Hanrahan made most of her impact thanks to hard work and individual effort.
Taylor Holze has become a big story line for the Riveters after being a standout in the preseason and was one of the silver linings from last night's defeat. Holze saw a lot more ice time against the Pride and was used on the penalty kill, on the point on the power play, and was on the ice for Gabie Figueroa's goal on Brittany Ott. With Sydney Kidd stuck in Canada with visa issues both Holze and Moore played again this week and Holze in particular made sure to make an impact on the game.
Lyudmila Belyakova put just one shot on net last night and received a minor penalty for roughing in the first period. It appeared that Belyakvoa saw significantly less ice time as the game progressed which may have been related to her being in the middle of a lot of the after the whistle nastiness that occurred throughout the game. Belyakova has been known to play with an edge, but the Riveters need her name on the box score next to shots and points, not penalty minutes. The Riveters will need Belyakova to be an impact player next week.
Thanks for reading.
Note: The shot totals and some other statistics on the league's official scoresheet are off, the Riveters were out-shot by a wide margin.