If the Riveters learned anything on their short tour of Ivy League ice this weekend, it was how badly they need captain Ashley Johnston and forward Madison Packer, especially in back to back games. The Riveters battled to a respectable 4-3 loss against the Whale at Yale on Saturday, but took a beating in Cambridge on Sunday from a rested Pride squad motivated by last week's loss to the Buffalo Beauts.
Yet injuries and exhaustion can't fully account for the Riveters' less-than-lackluster performance. Poor possession management and zone exits led to turnovers, or kept the Rivs trapped in their own end until they were unable to make anything happen when they finally cleared the puck. Jillian Dempsey tucked the first Pride goal neatly behind Jenny Scrivens after she came out of the net for another save, and it was downhill from there -- and by "downhill" I mean "off a really high cliff while tied to an anvil."
Scrivens got the start for the Riveters after Nana Fujimoto was noticeably frustrated by the loss the night before -- a game with a score closer than the actual quality of play on the ice. It wasn't Scrivens' best night; still, she made some key stops, including a spectacular save on Alyssa Gagliardi, who had been left wide open, at the end of the first. Unfortunately, the tired team in front of her couldn't hold off Rachel Llanes, Brianna Decker, and Corinne Buie. Coach Chad Wiseman pulled Scrivens with 7 minutes left in the 2nd period, after Hilary Knight slipped one in from the doorstep off a flawless feed from Decker. In the remaining 27, another three pucks, from Amanda Pelkey, Dempsey (again), and Jordan Smelker, snuck past Nana Fujimoto.
"Flawless" was the word of the night for the Pride, who executed all their systems perfectly. The Rivs just couldn't keep up with their passing game, or match it the few times they managed to possess the puck. Pride goaltender Brittany Ott didn't have much to do, but the few times she was called on, including a front-of-the-net fracas in the second period in which the Rivs got at least three quality chances, she came up big. The Riveters actually led the game in shots until the third, but few of them were dangerous, or generated useful rebounds.
Brooke Ammerman, who made a triumphant two-goal return from injury the night before, assisted on the Riveters' lone goal from Bray Ketchum. While they've had more than their share of losses, the Riveters have not been shut out once this season; still, the Pride's eight goals put them at the wrong end of a new NWHL record.
Some points of light: Gabie Figueroa, Kiira Dodsall, and Syd the Kidd sent some beautiful pucks from the point, which a less tired team will hopefully capitalize on in the future. Celeste Brown clearly decided to get noticed for something other than the penalties she racked up earlier in the season; she took some good hard shots, as did Beth Hanrahan. And Madison Packer tweeted that she plans to keep her spot in the league's first All-Star Game on January 24th, which means she'll be returning to the lineup sooner rather than later. Here's hoping that the return of Packer and Johnston, as well as a good rest, help the Riveters reach for the right kind of records as they enter the final third of the season.