The New York Riveters were not a successful hockey team last year. One of the primary reasons was their struggle to establish any kind of forecheck and play aggressively in the opponent’s end of the ice.
While this was in part due to the makeup of the roster, head coach Chad Wiseman did his team no favors with his chip and chase style. There was an onus this offseason for the new Riveters general manager to go out and get his coach (the man he sees in the mirror) the talent he needed to compete with the rest of the NWHL.
Well, with one game in the books I can definitely state that yes, the New York Riveters do in fact have a forecheck and oh my is it fun to watch.
The biggest move made by any of the four NWHL teams this offseason was the $26,000 signing free agent Amanda (#BestKessel) Kessel. Arguably the best or second best women’s hockey player in world, Kessel was expected to change the nature of the Rivs’ offense. But give credit to Wiseman for going out and adding players like Tatiana Rafter, Miye D’Oench, and Rebecca Russo to bolster a forward corps that had good pieces in Morgan Fritz-Ward, Madison Packer, and Janine Weber but lacked offensive punch.
In their season opening loss to the defending Isobel Cup Champion Boston Pride (hey, did you know that the Pride won the inaugural Isobel Cup? Just watch any NWHL live stream and they’ll remind you every 30 seconds), the Rivs debuted a faster, more aggressive style.
They put up a kind of fight against the NWHL’s best team that last year’s roster couldn’t. That change was clear on the Riveters’ first goal of the season, scored by Miye D’Oench.
The play starts with a chip in by Rafter to start a line change. As the Boston Pride defender goes to collect the puck she’s met by Kessel who forces the defender to reverse the puck around the boards. And that is where Kessel’s support is waiting to pounce. Kessel also follows the play to make sure it’s a 3 on 3 battle. Her speed changes everything.
With Kessel forcing the puck back around the Pride net, Janine Weber is there with fresh legs to make sure that the puck stays in the attacking zone while Kessel backs up the play and follows the puck back up the boards. D’Oench, as the third forward, reads the play perfectly and heads straight for the open ice. She knows she will be open for a shot attempt or to support another ring around the boards.
Weber wins the initial puck battle to Kessel, who then threads an absolutely wonderful pass to a wide open D’Oench. The Harvard grad, who has great speed of her own, slipped past the entire Pride defense to be in position to slam home a one-timer.
Amanda Kessel is the definition of a “game changing talent.” I don’t know if Wiseman rebuilt the Rivs’ attack around her or if he had this system in mind and needed the talent to make it work. Whatever the case he deserves credit for taking a team that could be a slog to watch at times and adding the pieces to make them far more dangerous with the puck.
If you haven’t yet checked out women’s hockey, now is the perfect time to jump on board the Riveters’ bandwagon and watch one of the best hockey players in the world do her thing.