PHOTO CRED: Troy Parla
On January 12 the New York Riveters signed Lauren Wash to a contract for the rest of the season. So we sought out the newest Riv to find out just how did this all come about, and found out what her first two weeks in the NWHL have been like. She’s extremely excited to be playing so close to home as Wash is originally from New Jersey, had connections to two current Riveters and was a four-year player at RPI.
“It came about in a really weird way; I played with Miye (D’Oench with the New Jersey Rockets development team). She reached out to me and said that I should come practice with them because they were missing a few players and they were struggling with keeping the lines together,” the 22-year-old said prior to a Tuesday night practice at the Barnabas Health Hockey House in New Jersey.
“I said sure, why not? I’ll come and practice even though I haven’t played in like ten months; I’ll just hop on and see if I can help you for the weekend, and then I ended up signing. GM/Head Coach Chad (Wiseman) offered me a contract and I said okay,” she said with a huge smile. “I’ll sign and help you guys. It’s been awesome, I love it.”
That must’ve been some practice, perhaps the best practice in the history of practices for a player that hadn’t played hockey in ten months. Wash started laughing before admitting that, “I was sucking wind the whole time but he knows that (I hadn’t played in a while) and he has a lot of faith in me. He just kind of took a leap of faith I guess.”
After two practices with her new team Wash was on a bus from New Jersey with the Riveters to Buffalo for a game with the Beauts. “It was really nice to have those girls there to welcome me to the team and it made for a really easy transition,” she said. “The girls are really nice anyway, so I’m sure it would have been fine. But it was really great to have (college teammate) Alexa Gruschow and Miye there.”
PHOTO CRED: Troy Parla
“I didn’t follow the NWHL last year, but I did follow it during the first half because Alexa and Miye were playing,” she went on to explain. “I wanted to follow them. Never was it my plan at all to join the team, at all. It’s really funny how things fell into place.”
Game time in Buffalo is quickly approaching. The players are getting their gear on in the locker room and once everyone is ready they begin their march to the HarborCenter ice for pregame warmups. Usually, the team walks onto the ice in number order - from lowest to highest - so Wash, who is wearing no. 2 is leading her brand new team towards the ice. The door opens, Wash steps onto the ice and then starts skating…alone. None of her teammates take the ice with her.
Everyone starts laughing as she takes a lap around the ice all by herself. So who set her up? “That was a Russo specialty,” captain Ashley Johnston said with a laugh. “I just told her how warmups work and tried not to laugh. (It) worked out perfectly because she was #2. Moose (Rebecca Morse, #9) was a lot harder to trick!”
The rookie had to know it was going to happen, right? Wash starts laughing. “No, they tricked me! I should have known better,” she said shaking her head and laughing again. “That’s never happened to me before, I was really surprised. It was funny, and all in good humor.”
After all that, less than seven minutes into her first NWHL game she gets an assist on Janine Weber’s goal that extends the Rivs lead to 2-0. This league is easy, right newbie? “No,” Wash says with a chuckle. “it was definitely fast-paced. I was really happy to get an assist, I was surprised that in my first couple of shifts I helped get a goal,” she paused and smiled before adding, “and it made me really happy that we won 3-0, in my first game.”
So after wearing no. 10 in college, how’d she end up with no. 2 on her jersey with the Riveters? “Haha, so all the numbers are pretty much gone and it was either 2 or 23 or some really high number,” she explained. “So I said I’d go with 2 since I really don’t have many options. I don’t have any connection to the number, I just took it — but I kind of like it now.”
Even though she’s from New Jersey, the Pittsburgh Penguins are her favorite NHL team, but she’s been attended many games at the Prudential Center to see the hometown team play. Now she plays and practices on the Devils practice rink in the same building that doubles as the Riveters home ice.
“I’ve been to a bunch of games here and there are a lot of memories here, which I really like. Being here is nostalgic and makes me feel comfortable,” Wash admitted. “Growing up, I guess my favorite player was (Steven) Stamkos. On the Devils I really liked watching Patrik Elias, my mom and I really liked him; Zach Parise was really great too. I really loved watching Stamkos growing up; Sidney Crosby I love to watch now.”
Her second NWHL game came in New Jersey as the Riveters battled to defend their home ice against the undefeated/defending champion Boston Pride. The two teams went blow-for-blow all night before the champs broke their hearts and won the game on a goal with 13.9 seconds left in regulation.
“They’re a lot faster, I was expecting a faster game - which it definitely was; that was probably the fastest hockey I’ve ever played,” Wash would say recalling the game three nights earlier. “It took a couple of shifts to get used to (the pace) and understand what was going on and what level I needed to play at. Which is okay, I hadn’t played in a long time anyway. It was really cool how we stuck with them and the past two games that I’ve played with the Riveters we’ve been really good. They say it’s two of the best games they’ve played all season.”
While she admitted she’s a fan of some of the players on the Pride, she didn’t let that emotion surface during the 60-minutes of the game. She was all business, all the time. “I think I told myself before I got on the ice that: I don’t have any time to be struck by them, even though I am, but if I did — I would be watching the game and not being at the same pace.”
“It was definitely weird to play against Hilary Knight: she’s huge, and everyone knows her…I follow her on Instagram and social media…to be on the same ice as her? I would never imagine in a million years I would be on the same ice with all of those Olympians.”
PHOTO CRED: Troy Parla
In talking to her it was evident how excited and enthused that Lauren Wash is to be a part of the NWHL. There are some players that have had to leave the league over the past few months for various reasons. But for her, their departure created an incredible opportunity that she could not pass up.
“I just thought it’d be a great experience... It’s great to be part of a group of girls that are so nice, and so good at hockey. I’ve never played with such good hockey players all at once, so this is really cool,” she said with a smile as wide as the ocean, unable to hide how pleased she is to be a part of the NWHL family.