PHOTO BY TROY PARLA
The Metropolitan Riveters booked a trip to the Isobel Cup Semifinals with a 5-2 victory over the Connecticut Whale in a play-in game Thursday night in Newark. The Riveters will travel to take on the top-seeded Minnesota Whitecaps at sold-out TRIA Rink Sunday at 1:30 PM CT.
The teams traded goals in the first period, but neither team scored in a penalty-littered second, leaving the game tied at two heading into the third. Richards scored her first of the night early in the third to give the Riveters their first lead of the game, before Gruschow added a buffer late in the period and Richards iced the win with an empty-netter.
“We just have good vibes,” said goaltender Katie Fitzgerald, who made 24 saves in another big win. “Everyone has really good energy, so it’s really good to see that all coming together, and we’re hoping to carry that into the weekend.”
The Riveters answered quickly, with Courtney Burke coming out of the corner and finding space in the high slot to knot the score at one at 9:32.
Mrázová regained the lead for the Whale on a highlight-reel play, forcing her way past her defender and firing a backhand shot into the top corner at 11:28. But the Riveters once again responded, with Gruschow one-timing home a pass from Jenny Ryan at 14:45.
The teams traded penalties for much of the second period, with nine total infractions called in the period. But neither team broke through on the power play. The Riveters nearly capitalized on a pass across the goalmouth from Amanda Kessel from Rebecca Russo. Burke also nearly got her second of the night with a rocket from the point that sailed just wide.
Richards then netted the game-winner just 2:35 into the third. She kept the puck in the zone along the left boards before deking around a defender and finishing into the top left corner.
Jessica Koizumi looked to tie it again moments later, coming in on a breakaway, but Fitzgerald made the big save to preserve the lead for the Riveters.
Gruschow’s second of the night came on a breakaway, as she shifted to her backhand to push the lead to two with under four minutes to play. Richards fired into the empty net with 16 seconds left to seal the victory.
“We’re a different team now, we’re a different group of Riveters,” said Gruschow, on looking for revenge on the top-seeded Whitecaps, who served the Riveters four straight losses to open the season. “The time is now. It’s playoffs. It’s one game, do or die. So we’re going to give it our all in Minnesota, that’s for sure.”
PHOTO BY TROY PARLA