Despite putting forth their best effort of the season, the New York Riveters lost to the Connecticut Whale 3-1 at home. Donning pink jerseys for Strides For The Cure and Hope & Heroes, the New York Riveters looked like a different team altogether in their second meeting against the undefeated Whale team. In their first two games of the year, New York had been outscored 11-2 and outworked in all zones on the ice for the vast majority of play. It was a different story last night, featuring a Riveters team that seems to be finding their game. Coach Wiseman acknowledged the improved play of the team. "They're all buying into the systems. We did look like a different team out there. I thought the girls deserved a better fate."
However, the story last night started the same as it has been for New York in the inaugural NWHL season. The Riveters found themselves in early penalty trouble, an ongoing issue for the team, and Connecticut got on the board first with a power play goal from Alyssa Wohlfeiler. New York has surrendered the first goal in all of their games, and when combined with long spells of playing shorthanded, it has been difficult for the Riveters to get themselves back into games. Lyudmila Belyakova was penalized twice in the first period for hooking, including the call which led to the Whale's first goal. Belyakova is one of the Riveter's most potent offensive weapons, but she has struggled in the early stages of the season.
The tables turned in the second period of the game with Connecticut finding themselves killing off an extended 5-on-3 opportunity for the Riveters. A tripping minor on Kelli Stack and a hooking minor on Sam Faber drawn just nine seconds apart afforded New York their best chance of the game to put the puck in the net, and they seized it. Ashley Johnston, who has been a standout on the blueline for the team through the first three games, blasted a shot from the point which sneaked through traffic in front and tied the game 1-1. When asked what she saw while winding up the shot which would deliver her first goal of the season, Johnston smiled and said "I saw that I was going to shoot the puck as hard as I possibly could and hope it goes in the back of the net." Her hope came to fruition and provided more for the Riveters and their fans as momentum had swung in their favor at Aviator Sports & Events Center.
The game continued to be even both on the scoreboard and on the ice into the third period of play until, yet again, the menace of penalties would befall the Riveters. Gabie Figueroa was called for high-sticking early in the period and the Whale quickly capitalized on the power play opportunity. Kaleigh Fratkin's shot from the point found its way past Nana Fujimoto who was heavily screened on the play and put the Whale back on top 2-1. Fujimoto was stellar all game, stopping prime scoring chances in rapid succession and being beaten only while her team was shorthanded. It was her best performance of the season and it is one of the biggest positives to come out of a game full of them for the Riveters.
The Riveters and their fans experienced a case of déjà vu after it appeared that the team had scored an important goal, only to have it disallowed due to a high-stick. Much like Beth Hanrahan's apparent goal against the Pride, which Mike Murphy analyzed earlier this week, the Riveters were denied a goal after Morgan Fritz-Ward's high slot deflection was ruled to be above the crossbar. Blueshirt Banter has an exclusive angle of the play which shows that the call on the ice was correct and Fritz-Ward had illegally deflected the puck with a high-stick directly into the net. "We might be setting a record here early for disallowed goals" quipped coach Wiseman after the game.
At the point of contact with the puck, Fritz-Ward's stick appears to be above the crossbar. No goal.
The Connecticut Whale would hold off the Riveters sustained attack for the rest of the period and eventually tallied an empty net goal from Kelly Babstock to secure the 3-1 win. Obviously, it is not in the game plan to begin the season 0-3-0. However, there were abundant signs of improvement from the Riveters in all facets of the game from zone entries, defensive coverage, and shot generation. It is only a matter of time and the right amount of puck luck before this team gets their first win. It easily could have been last night, but such is the game of hockey. It is a game of crazy bounces, chaotic scrambles, and keeping sticks below the crossbar. The Riveters next game will not be until November 15 due to the break in the NWHL schedule for the Nations Cup in Sweden. They will return to action as visitors against the undefeated Boston Pride. You will not want to miss it.