Almost seven months to the day after winning the Isobel Cup on March 25, the Metropolitan Riveters had one more celebration of that special moment as they saw their championship banner unveiled – commemorating a moment that will last a lifetime for the players and coaches of the 2018 NWHL champions.
“It’s pretty special,” said fourth-year Riveter Madison Packer, “especially for the crew that was around the first couple of days in Brooklyn…not to take anything away from the other players. Winning that championship – that’s probably one of my top moments in my career. It just goes to show how the league has developed, how far we’ve come as a group and really buying into the process and believing in what we were doing.”
“Seeing the banner go up was an incredible moment for us, and having some of our old teammates there was really special and I’m glad we all got to celebrate that moment,” said Shelly Picard.
The 2017-18 Riveters were honored before the game as the championship banner was unveiled.
Just under seven minutes later Amanda Boulier wired a shot past Fitzgerald that gave the Whitecaps their fourth one-goal lead of the afternoon.
“She’s got a great shot and it comes off so quick! I don’t even think I saw her release it this time, all of a sudden it was in the net,” said Boulier’s defense partner, U.S. Olympian Lee Stecklein. “She’s one of the best D I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with.”
The lead would hold up despite the Riveters having a few golden chances to tie the game. They outshot Minnesota 15-4 over the final twenty minutes, but Leveille was able to hold them off.
“We got in late last night, but we really battled and I’m really proud of everyone,” said Leveille. “We’re happy that we got the win today.”
The Rivs were better, but not at their best yet. That will come with time and practice as they adjust to a new coach, new players, and the absence of Courtney Burke and Miye D’Oench. They also have the expected target on their backs as defending champions in a league that gets stronger and stronger – as the NWHL has experienced its biggest jump in talent level in Season 4 with the return of Olympians and addition of the mighty Whitecaps.
“I love our team and everything about our effort today,” said Riveters head coach Randy Velischek. “We battled from start to finish and our execution was solid. We just couldn’t get that tying goal late. We had several chances, and it was from the talent and hard work of everyone in our lineup. As a group, it’s easy to stay positive because you can see us coming together. If we keep this up, and I know we will, the victories will come.”
Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
1. Amanda Boulier: game-winning goal
2. Madison Packer: 2 goals, 7 shots on goal
3. Amy Menke: 1st NWHL goal
Once the game started, a rivalry was renewed between the pipes as the two best goalies from last season - Amanda Leveille and Katie Fitzgerald - gave us another fantastic goaltending duel. Leveille finished with 24 saves and Fitzgerald stopped 17 as the Minnesota Whitecaps improved to 3-0-0 to start to the season with a 5-3 win over the Riveters, who fell to 0-4-0.
Minnesota scored the first goal of the game when Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal put the Whitecaps ahead at 18:13 of the first. Entering the game with only two goals in their first three games, the Rivs were able to respond less than a minute later when Packer perfectly deflected a shot from Picard past Leveille.
The Whitecaps took their second lead of the afternoon when Amy Menke netted her first NWHL goal at 12:31 of the second period. Once again it was Packer who found the equalizer 5:15 later, when she ripped a shot past Leveille. Packer’s performance was even more amazing considering she had to be removed on a stretcher for precautionary reasons from the previous game.
Late in the second period, Meghan Pezon scored on a goalmouth scramble in front of Fitzgerald, giving Minnesota a 3-2 lead they would carry into the third period. But it was short-lived as only 2:33 into the final period Audra Richards tied the game when she fired a slap shot past Leveille for her first NWHL goal.
“It was pretty cool,” Richards said of her first professional goal, “I wasn’t expecting it to go in, nor was I expecting the puck to pop out in the middle of the slot. But it felt good to score against my home state team. A surreal moment, I guess.”
PHOTO BY TROY PARLA
PHOTO BY TROY PARLA