PHOTO CRED: Troy Parla
NEWARK, NJ - Learning from their previous games, the New York Riveters were finally able to beat the Boston Pride, halting their quest for an undefeated season, with a 3-2 win at Barnabas Heath Hockey House on Sunday. Just a week earlier the Pride furiously rallied for a 4-3 win after casually spotting the Rivs a 3-1 lead.
“Systematically, we’re playing really strong, playing well; we have no passengers right now,” said Riveters coach/GM Chad Wiseman after the win. “If we’re fortunate enough to make the Final and play them, we’re prepared and we don’t have to waste any time preparing for the game other than some minor adjustments. Our last four games that we played them, we were in a position to win all four.”
The loss is the first for Boston since January 3, 2016 (against the Buffalo Beauts) and the first time they have lost in regulation since November 29, 2015 (against the Connecticut Whale). It’s their first loss after 27 straight wins. The Pride finished the season with a 16-1-0 record, while the Riveters record stands at 8-7-3.
Following a scoreless opening period, Janine Weber and Milica McMillen scored goals twenty seconds apart sending the home crowd into a frenzy as they took control of the game. “I saw an opening, thought I’d jump in the rush and the puck came right to me. I think it was passed to someone else, but I’ll take it,” said McMillen with a laugh.
Less than six minutes after McMillen’s marker, the reigning player of the week Brianna Decker made her presence felt when she converted on a Boston power play on a set-up from her co-captain Hilary Knight.
Just like last weekend, the Riveters carried a lead into the third period, and just like last weekend, it was Meghan Duggan who scored less than 80 seconds into the final frame. But it was Duggan who was in the penalty box when Madison Packer scored on the power play (from an unreal angle) at 4:53 to restore New York’s lead.
“It’s just a quick step off the goal line. Usually, teams give Kessel a lot more respect than they are going to give me; and that’s fair,” Packer said, explaining how she was able to get free to score her tie-breaking goal. “I can score from the goal line, and I’ll shoot the puck from the goal line. If teams aren’t going to respect it and overcommit to Kessel, that’s fine. We’ll take it.”
Boston wouldn’t go down without a fight and fired a total of twenty shots on goal in the third (which was the Rivs’ total for the entire game) and Katie Fitzgerald was up to the task each time she was called upon to make a key save. Fitzgerald finished the game with 44 saves, and the Riveters now head into their semifinal game with Buffalo riding the high of a huge win.
“It’s been a long time coming, we’ve had a couple of close games and fell short. It definitely felt great to finally finish one through. There are some really good vibes going on in our locker room right now,” said Fitzgerald, who couldn’t stop smiling.
Game Notes: Decker has a point in an NWHL-record nine consecutive games now (8g-13a) and finished as the league's scoring leader with 31 points (14g-17a). Amanda Kessel had an assist on the GWG to give her at least one point in all eight of the games she has appeared in (4g-14a). Weber’s goal was her tenth of the season and she finished third in the NWHL scoring race with 22 points. Decker led all players with eight shots on goal and McMillen led the Riveters with six.