Walther’s 60 Saves, Murphy’s First NWHL Goal Lead Riveters to 3-1 Win
By Jane Norton
In a goaltending battle for the ages between NWHL legend Amanda Leveille and rising star Sam Walther, it was Walther who came out on top with the stunning total of 60 saves as the Riveters defeated the Whitecaps 3-1 on Sunday in New Jersey.
Colleen Murphy’s first NWHL goal, off a slick pass from Madison Packer at 6:06 of the third period, broke a 1-1 tie for the Riveters, who earned their first victory at home this season.
“It’s huge,” said Murphy. “I mean, it’s a goal by the team, not me, and we really needed that goal. We tightened things up in the third after they out-shot us by a lot, so I was glad I could bury it.”
If it wasn’t for Walther’s heroics, the game would not have been tied going into the third.
“Sam was unbelievable,” said Murphy. “She kept us in the game. Sam has been the backbone of our team all season and it was really great that we could pull out that win for her. When we needed big saves, she was there.”
Especially in the first two periods of the game, the Whitecaps displayed the speed and skill that makes them a serious contender for a second-straight Isobel Cup. Minnesota's speed helped them create countless odd-player rushes, which helped them out-shoot and out-chance the Riveters to the tune of 51 shots through the first 40 minutes of play.
However, Walther stopped 50 of those first 51 shots, including several big chances on the rush and scrambles in front of the Riveters' goal crease. Despite the dominance, the Whitecaps only goal in the first two periods came at 5:49 of the second period, from the hands of Meghan Lorence off terrific passing from Amanda Boulier and Nina Rodgers.
But if you thought Minnesota would sail away with the game from there, Walther and the Riveters had other ideas. A broken Whitecaps stick at center ice created a 2-on-1 and the last two Riveters you’d want to see in that scenario if you’re an opponent are Madison Packer and Kate Leary. Packer showed patience before sliding a pass to Leary, who wristed it past Leveille to tie the game just 37 seconds after Lorence’s goal.
Although she was not as busy as Walther, Leveille often had to be superb. She stopped 20 of the 21 shots she faced in the first 40 minutes of the game, some of which were highlight-reel material.
Everything seemed to change at the start of the third period. The Riveters carried the play and the Whitecaps did not have a high-quality scoring chance until midway through the final period.
After Murphy scored what turned out to be the game-winner, the Riveters held steady before Packer scored an empty-net goal with 32 seconds left.
“We’re gaining momentum as the season goes on and really creating chemistry with each other,” said Murphy. “We’re going to have a strong second half of the season.”
The Riveters have now won three of their last four games.
“This was a hard-fought victory for us today,” said Riveters head coach Ivo Mocek. “The game plan was to eliminate Minnesota’s strengths, and I thought we did that well. We finally got some puck luck, too. All of our players left everything out there and earned this win.”
The Riveters will be back at home next Saturday at 6:30 p.m. to host the Connecticut Whale. Tickets for that game are available at riveters.nwhl.zone/tickets.
Photo Credit: Ashley Intile