Rivs' Leary Has the Heart of a Grinder and the Hands of an All-Star
By Mike Murphy
As soon as the news broke that Kate Leary had signed with the Metropolitan Riveters on Sep. 23, fans and analysts expected her to be one of the most valuable players on the team. Just 14 games into her NWHL career we can safely say that Leary has lived up to those lofty expectations. Leary, who is playing in her third pro league in three years, has established herself as a star with a knack for consistent production.
While playing in the SWHL with Ladies Team Lugano in the 2018-19 season, Leary led the league with 33 goals in 20 games. Having that level of production in a league that is flush with members of the Swiss national team was quite a feat. In retrospect, that big year now seems like a natural progression from Leary leading the Boston Blades (CWHL) in scoring in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.
Through 14 NWHL games, Leary has 21 points – 19 of which are primary. Even more impressive is the fact that Leary has registered a point in 13 of her 14 games with the Riveters this season. The New Hampshire native may be piling up points, but that doesn’t mean that they are coming as easily as they were in Europe, “The NWHL is certainly faster overall than [the SWHL],” Leary said. “The Swiss League teams do not have the same depth as the teams in the NWHL, so the pace is certainly different. Every game is much more competitive here.”
Fortunately for the Riveters, there’s no questioning Leary’s competitive drive. She was highly underrated during her collegiate career because of BC’s forward depth and was often overlooked in her two years in the CWHL because the Blades were rock bottom in the standings. The New Hampshire native frequently wins battles against players who tower over her and has proven time and again that she is one of the game’s hardest-working skill players. That style has made her an ideal winger to play opposite of Madison Packer.
“The chemistry has definitely been there with Packer,” Leary said. “Hutch and I have been clicking more and more with every game. It’s fun to play with new players who come from different college teams and have other experiences. Hopefully, we can continue improving as a line as we get more used to each other’s style of play.”
Chances are good that head coach Ivo Mocek will keep Leary and Packer together – at this point, it would be almost criminal to separate them. Since she joined the Riveters’ lineup on Oct. 12, Leary has earned the primary assist on six of Packer’s 10 goals in that window; Packer has primary assists on six of Leary’s 10 goals. Mocek has asked a lot of Leary this year, but the veteran winger has been eager to do what she can to guide the Riveters to wins.
“Coach is very intense, and he brings a lot energy to the team,” Leary said. “He has been great with communicating and making sure everyone is on the same page with a game plan. I think as he gains more experience with the team and the league, he will be a difference-maker for the Rivs.”
Mocek knows Leary is a player he can trust to log big minutes regardless of who the Riveters are playing. She’s willing to take a hit to make a play and is the kind of player who makes an extra effort to move the puck to a friendly jersey when she’s being hauled down by an opponent instead of looking for an official. Heading into last weekend’s action, Leary led the league with 12 penalties drawn. She may have the hands of an All-Star, but the 5-foot-2 dynamo has the heart of a grinder.
Leary and the Riveters will be back in action on home ice this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET to host the Connecticut Whale. Thus far this season, Leary has three assists in two games against the Whale. Tickets for Saturday’s game and all Riveters home games are available at riveters.nwhl.zone/tickets and all Rivs games can be watched streaming live and free on the NWHL on Twitch.
All data courtesy of NWHL.zone, EliteProspects.com, and the author's own tracking.
Photo Credit: Schuyler Meyer