With Morgan Fritz-Ward's status up in the air for tomorrow's Game One of the Riveters' first round series against the Boston Pride, the injury troubles that the New York Riveters have had to battle all season long will unfortunately be following them into the Isobel Cup Playoffs.
Fritz-Ward, an alternate captain with the team and an All-Star forward, is one of only four Riveters with four or more goals this season. She is also one of only three Riveters to have more than one power play goal on a power play that will need to make a difference in the series against the Pride. After leaving the February 2nd road game against the Buffalo Beauts with an apparent upper-body injury, Fritz-Ward was out of the lineup against the Whale in the Riveters' regular season finale.
Replacing a cornerstone player like Fritz-Ward is no small task on a team that has already had to play the entire NWHL season without fellow forward Erin Barley-Maloney in the lineup. The solid possession play of Margot Scharfe played a big part in New York's solid performance in their 4-2 loss against the Connecticut Whale last Sunday, but the case for dressing Cherie Stewart and adding her offense to the lineup is a strong one.
Stewart might be the slowest player on the team, but she has a knack for putting pucks in the net that can’t be taught. Considering that the Riveters were outscored 29 to 10 in the season series, the Manhattanville winger could make a big difference on the power play and during offensive zone starts. The real issue is that the Riveters rarely get offensive zone starts and Stewart has not been given a chance to prove her worth on the power play in the four games she has dressed for.
There is a chance that Boston University Taylor Holze might return for tomorrow's game against the Pride. Holze, an emotional leader on and off the ice, returning for Game One of the series against Boston would be a big lift to her team. It would also be downright poetic.
Holze was knocked out of the Riveters' lineup in a game against the Pride in early December after a scary collision with the open door of the Pride's bench. Her potential return to tomorrow night's Riveters' lineup would be the first time she was back on the ice with her team for a game in nearly three months.
The signs that Holze might be close to a return on social media have been coming with more frequency over the past two weeks. The impact of Holze and her speed returning to the lineup is difficult to quantify, but there's no denying that it would be a huge emotional lift to a locker room that is hungry to make countless bloggers, reporters, and analysts eat crow with their underdog status heading into the first-ever Isobel Cup Playoffs.
Tomorrow night the Riveters will take to the ice at Raymond J. Bourque Arena against Hilary Knight and the Boston Pride in Beverly, Massachusetts in their first-ever playoff game. The puck drops on Game One of the series at 7:00 PM, March 4th. Game Two will be played Saturday night at 8:00 PM and Game Three, if necessary, will be played March 6th at 7:00 PM.
Let's go Riveters.