Photo By Matthew Raney Photography
The Metropolitan Riveters won their first NWHL Championship in dramatic fashion, knocking off the defending Isobel Cup Champion Buffalo Beauts 1-0 in front of a standing room only crowd at Barnabas Health Hockey House. The Rivs finished in last place in the league’s inaugural season and slowly but surely under the tutelage of coach Chad Wiseman they rose up, and have now laid the foundation for the franchise’s bright future.
On their second shot of the game the Riveters got the only goal they would need as the league’s MVP Alexa Gruschow scored from a ridiculous angle after her original shot was blocked. “I had my linemate Miye back,” Gruschow with a smile when asked how the goal unfolded. “I entered the zone with the puck and she called for it, and she had great patience and poise. Once she gave it back to me I shot it and the puck squeezed through the defender’s legs, and somehow I got the shot up high.”
“I don’t know how it went in. I was falling down,” she added with a laugh. “They always say words can’t describe it, I’m just ecstatic,” Gruschow, who can now add Isobel Cup Champion to her resume, said on the ice as her team celebrated behind her.
“I can’t say enough about these girls, and how proud I am to be their coach,” Wiseman said following his team’s win. “Not just this year, but since the inaugural season. They earned this, they earned this tonight - from Fitzy to our D.”
“I thought it was a great hockey game,” the only coach the Rivs have ever known said. “It was great entertainment on both sides - the momentum switched sides and went back and forth quite often, maybe too much for my liking. But at the end of the day, this team earned it, and they got the win.”
Fitzy would be goaltender Katie Fitzgerald who made 28 saves in outdueling Amanda Leveille in a classic hockey game that’ll be remembered for a long time. It was in the third period where Fitzgerald really shined with save after save that stymied the Beauts from every angle.
She even added two head saves to go along with the numerous saves that she made with her gloves and pads. Fitzgerald didn’t surrender a goal in the playoffs, shutting out Connecticut a week earlier in the same building.
“I think if anything it made me a bit more confident that I was in the right spot. I was square (to the shooter),” Fitzgerald said with a laugh. “I probably could have caught that last one, but I just wanted to take it off the noggin for some reason.”