Riveters forward and Princeton Women's Hockey assistant coach Kelly Nash scored the Rivs' first goal. (ALL PHOTOS BY TROY PARLA)
In a battle between worthy champions of two of the world’s greatest women’s hockey leagues, neither team was willing to give an inch in the first-ever Champions Cup presented by VEDA. In a tight, back-and-forth, hard-fought game between the Isobel Cup champion Metropolitan Riveters and SDHL champion Luleå Hockey, Noora Tulus’ goal late in the third period ended up being the difference in Luleå’s 4-2 victory.
“I give our club a lot of credit. I thought everybody competed really well,” said new Riveters head coach Randy Velischek. “We came back twice from deficits. A lot of good things. As far as I’m concerned, there’s all positives here. The game at one point could’ve gone either way. From just pure heart, dedication and passion, full kudos to the [Riveters].”
After a scoreless first period, Michelle Karvinen got the scoring started, giving Luleå the 1-0 lead just 27 seconds into what would become a penalty-filled second period. The lead wouldn’t last, as Princeton assistant coach and Riveters forward Kelly Nash erased the deficit with a deflection of an Alexa Gruschow shot 14:16 into the second to put the Isobel Cup champs on the board.
“It was a great environment to experience that in,” said Nash of scoring at the rink where she coaches. “I don’t know that I’ll ever get to play here again, so it was really cool.”
After eight penalties in the second period, the penalty trouble continued into the third for Luleå. But with two players in the box, the great Karvinen finished a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush, putting the puck behind 2018 Isobel Cup MVP Katie Fitzgerald to regain the one-goal lead. It didn’t take long for the Riveters to fight back, with newcomer Kristin Lewicki scoring her first with the team just 51 seconds later to tie the game at two.
“Kristin Lewicki scored a big goal for us to tie the game,” said Velischek. “You can see she’s got great speed, great hands.”
However, the Rivs couldn’t force a third comeback after Noora Tulus’ goal at 12:05 put Luleå ahead for good. Emma Nordin then iced the game in the final seconds with an empty-net goal.
“Playing against a team that is fit and athletic and prepared like Luleå — they’ve played six games in their league and they’re 6-0, they’re one of the top teams in Europe — these players putting in that effort this afternoon, it will be great to build off,” said Velischek. “Full marks to Luleå, and we congratulate them on winning the first Champions Cup. This was a great event for our game, and we hope to see it build in the coming years.”
The Riveters now have just one week to prepare following the Champions Cup with opening weekend against the NWHL’s newest team, the Minnesota Whitecaps, quickly approaching. The Rivs will take on the Whitecaps on Oct. 6 and 7 at TRIA Rink.
Champions Cup Roundup: