Last night should be one which is quickly forgotten for the New York Riveters. Forward Meghan Fardelmann said as much following the game, "We got next week to look forward to. We gotta prepare, talk about all the things we need to change and do right." Unfortunately, the events and circumstances which arose during their 6-1 loss to the Connecticut Whale will certainly draw plenty of attention and keep the news from the game on people's minds, lips, and keyboards.
Following their 7-3 victory against the Buffalo Beauts last Sunday, the Riveters returned to Brooklyn to play against a Whale team which had shocked them with an incredible comeback in their last meeting. Tensions were bound to be high in the rematch with the Riveters coming off of their most dominant win of the season and the Whale playing in their first game since their first franchise loss. However, what ensued at Aviator Sports & Events Center was more than merely emotions running high, it was a complete devolution into chaos.
In the third period of play, alternate captain Madison Packer went down hard following a collision in her own zone. The resilient forward remained on the ice for several minutes and required assistance from medical staff and teammates to get back on her feet and off the ice. She did not return to the game following the scary incident.
Can't say enough about Madison Packer the person and player. Hoping for the best news possible here. Terrifying stuff.— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) January 4, 2016
Soon after play resumed following the stoppage, things went from scary to ugly. With the Whale holding a substantial lead and controlling play, the Riveters were visibly frustrated. The spark which set off the conflagration was a collision between Whale forward Danielle Ward, Riveters defenseman Amber Moore, and goalie Jenny Scrivens.
After the contact, captain Ashley Johnston cross-checked Ward before she herself was sent to the ice by a charging Micaela Long. Players gathered in the corner where punches were thrown, jerseys were tugged, and players were knocked to the ice. The officials failed to control the players and benches throughout the game with questionable calls and non-calls for both sides occurring far too frequently. This seemingly played a part in the incident. A couple New York players came off of the bench to join in the mayhem, an unacceptable action which will surely garner a response from the league in the form of fines and suspensions.
Jessica Koizumi of the Whale shared her thoughts on the matter. "I think we handled it the way teammates do. I think Micaela [Long] stuck up for her own teammate and at the end of the day [New York] took a lot of kids off the bench and they just joined the brawl and we didn't. We held back because we are trying to be smart on suspensions and those kind of things."
The early stages of the game were the calm before the storm and it looked as though the Riveters were going to fair better in the choppy waters than the Whale. New York registered six shots on net before Connecticut got their first, which did not come until after the halfway point of the period. Despite this, the Whale took the lead thanks to a Shiann Darkangelo power play goal, the first of her three on the night.
In the second period, Darkangelo completed the hat trick with shorthanded and even strength goals to bolster her team's lead. The Whale's top forwards were poetry in motion for long stretches of play, executing seamless zone entries and creating space with composed passes all throughout the offensive zone. Meanwhile, the Riveters were struggling after their strong start and found themselves giving away pucks in transition.
The Riveters trailed 3-0 going into the third period in desperate need of some momentum, but the tide kept surging in favor of the Whale. Shannon Doyle scored early in the final frame to extend the lead to 4-0 and chased Nana Fujimoto from the net. Jenny Scrivens took over between the pipes and played a solid game, surrendering only a shorthanded breakaway goal from the stick of Kelly Babstock.
The lone New York goal came from Ludmila Belyakova on the power play resulting from the brawl. It was the young Russian's third goal in two games. Belyakova was flying all night, finding space for herself and firing pucks at the net whenever opportunities arose. Unfortunately for the Riveters, it was one of the very few positives in a game marred by disappointment. The Whale added an empty net goal from Kelli Stack to mark the final score of 6-1.
The two teams will meet again next weekend when the Whale host the Riveters. The game will undoubtedly draw plenty of attention following the events of last night. The response from the NWHL should be swift, severe, and unwavering. The league has built an overwhelmingly positive foundation in its short history, but now it must show its resolve in response to last night's brawl. Suspensions should be issued and messages should be sent that this will not be ignored or taken lightly. The players, teams, and fans of hockey everywhere deserve that.