Yesterday Kate Cimini from Today's Slap Shot wrote a great piece about the NWHL's practice players. Each club in the NWHL carries four practice players who are considered "non-contract" players according to commissioner Dani Rylan. For all intents and purposes, the four women skating with the Riveters serve as the club's farm team. To get a better idea of what role these women will serve for the clubs they are attached to, here's Kate Cimini's take on practice players.
If and when rostered players are unable to make a game or six, a practice player can step in, and possibly earn herself a spot on the roster come next season. In the meantime, they attend practices, develop their own skills and give rostered players people to practice against other than their own teammates.
I thought I would expand on Kate Cimini's article by turning the spotlight on the four women who will be practicing with the New York Riveters this season and will be the players to appear as a substitute should one of the 18 players under contract be unable to dress for one of the Riveters' 18 regular season games.
In the preseason both Margot Scharfe and Taylor Holze were easy to notice because their practice jerseys didn't have numbers on them, but that wasn't the only reason to take notice of them or the Riveters' other non-contract players. Each of the Riveters' four practice players offer the team a set of skills and they will all be pushing their teammates in practice and helping to make the New York Riveters the best hockey club they can be both on and off the ice.
Forward- Syracuse University
In 144 games with the Syracuse Orange Margot Scharfe scored 41 goals and registered 45 assists in her decorated collegiate hockey career. Scharfe's 41 goals are the Orange's current high mark for goals, but she has never been a player that was only concerned with getting the puck past opposing goaltenders.
"She's a constant team player and a very good captain. She's the last person who would get concerned or caught up in any sort of record."
In Scharfe's junior year at Syracuse the Toronto-born forward was named to the All-CHA Second Team and honored as the CHA Best Defensive Forward. Scharfe is just 23 and her best hockey is almost certainly still ahead of her. Her outstanding two-way game makes her an invaluable member of the Riveters' practice roster and a great plug-in option should the Riveters suffer an injury among their forwards or, perhaps, even their defensemen in the NWHL's inaugural season. Scharfe is a natural leader and has a good shot and great instincts in all three zones on the ice.
Defense- Cornell University
Moore battling for a puck after a faceoff win in the Riveters' defensive zone.
On a team that has only four or five defenseman having a player like Amber Moore, who wears #2 for the Riveters, as a substitute is a luxury that could have a big impact on the Riveters' success for the 2015-16 season. Moore played two seasons at Cornell on the blue line and picked up 8 points in 46 games with the Big Red. Moore was the captain of the San Jose Jr.under-19 team in 2006 and grew up playing roller hockey in Sunnyvale, California.
Moore defending against an attacking Whitecap.
Ashley "Stretch" Johnston is the only Riveter taller than the 5'10" Amber Moore. A physical defenseman, Moore accumulated 80 PIM in her two seasons at Cornell and she was not shy about battling in the corners, in front of the net, and along the boards in the two preseason games she appeared in for the Riveters. Moore might not be particularly dangerous on the attack, but her work ethic, good feet, and physical play make her a solid option for the Riveters should she get the nod to dress during the regular season. Moore is tireless in her own zone. Her motor was on full display against the Whitecaps last Sunday when the Riveters were pinned in the defensive zone for most of the game.
Forward- Manhattanville College
The most prolific Valiant on the ice for the Riveters' first practice.
The Manhattanville (Division III) graduate is the oldest player skating with the Riveters and holds her alma matter's record for the most career points (177) by a margin of 12 points over fellow Valiant Kristin Sahlem. Stewart was a prolific scorer for Manhattanville, piling up a staggering 101 goals in 109 career games. Stewart made her mark at even strength. Only 9 of her goals came on the power play but 18 of them were game winners for the Valiants. Stewart, one of four Riveters born in California, had an amazing senior year at Manhattanville. She scored 29 goals and 23 assists in 28 games surpassing her outstanding freshman performance.
Stewart helping to warm up Shenae Lundberg in the Riveters' second preseason game.
In the preseason Stewart was one of the Riveters' most successful battlers along the boards and she worked hard to get open for some quality scoring chances. She was especially noticeable in the club's game against the bigger, stronger FDNY team and was one of the women on New York that didn't shy away from taking the body and asserting her will on the ice. During warm-ups Stewart's big wind-up tends to catch some attention. Her willingness to battle for pucks and her exceptional shot had a lot to do with Stewart's productive years playing at Manhattanville. She brings a lot of strength and experience to a young Riveters' hockey club.
Forward- Boston University
Holze battling with Brian White of the FDNY.
Taylor Holze was one of the Riveters' most noticeable players in their first preseason game against the FDNY hockey club. She was all over the ice and her superlative skating helped her get past bigger, stronger defenders and put pucks into dangerous areas to give her linemates quality scoring opportunities. Holze, who was born in Lynnbrook, New York, played her college puck at Boston University and as a Terrier she scored 39 points in 121 games despite substantial injuries during her college career.
Holze flying up the ice against the FDNY from the Riveters' first preseason game.
Listed at 5'4" by BU, Holze is the smallest player skating with New York. In the preseason her practice jersey billowed on her frame, but at no point did Taylor Holze look out of place on the ice. In my opinion she was one of the team's best players in their two preseason games. On a team full of strong, blue-collar skaters Holze's small frame makes her a clear outlier. However, the sparkplug New York-native has a lot to bring to the Riveters' lineup should she get the nod at some point in the regular season. Her peerless hustle and skating ability will push her teammates to bring their best to every practice the club has during their inaugural season. Holze is a special player with great vision and a waterbug-like ability to get around on the ice.
You can support the Riveters' practice players by buying their jerseys on the league's website. 15% of jersey sales will go to the women who will be on the ice at Aviator for practices, fueled by their passion to play professional hockey and the desire to be a part of something special. They are just as much a part of history as the 18 Riveters who signed professional contracts for the league's inaugural season. Each of the Riveters' four practice players are hoping to prove they deserve a regular spot and a professional contract on a NWHL roster next season. If the Riveters have to turn to their practice roster, fans should be at ease knowing that the next player in will be a high-quality player that has a lot to offer the Brooklyn-based hockey club.
Thanks for reading. Let's go Riveters.