The Minnesota Whitecaps finished off a four-game sweep of their season series against the Metropolitan Riveters with a 6-2 victory in the second half of the back-to-back in New Jersey on Sunday. Amanda Leveille turned aside 26 shots from the champs and continued her recent dominance over them. She improves to 4-0-0 against them this season and 9-4-0 against them over her last 13 matchups against the Riveters. Minnesota was led by the trio of Allie Thunstrom (2g-1a), Katie McGovern (2g-1a) and Jonna Curtis (1g-3a) in the win.
“Our line really gelled well today,” said Thunstrom. “The three of us had never played together until the start of this season. Today we really got a feel for each other, seeing where each other was going to be.”
ALL PHOTOS BY TROY PARLA
The Riveters will be happy to be done with Minnesota, as the next time they would face them would be in a potential playoff matchup. “We had two goals tonight but unfortunately they weren’t at the right time,” said Riveters coach Randy Velischek. “Except for the game in Boston, we’ve trailed in every game. When you’re always fighting from behind, it puts the pressure on. I don’t think we’ve scored back-to-back goals yet this season. At some point, you have to hope that’s going to change.”
The Whitecaps seemed to have found the recipe for success against the defending champions — score early and often. Minnesota scored twice within a three-minute span during the first period as McGovern and Thunstrom put the Rivs down two goals heading into the first intermission. Thunstrom’s goal was the first in her NWHL career.
The lead could have been greater than 2-0, but twice in the opening period, Katie Fitzgerald’s defenders removed a loose puck from behind their goaltender before a player from Minnesota could reach it in the blue paint.
Hannah Brandt scored just after a Whitecaps power play ended to make it 3-0 for the visitors just past the midway point of the second period. The goal was Brandt’s third of the season, tying her with Buffalo’s Hayley Scamurra and Maddie Elia for the league lead.
With 2:27 left in the second, it was Audra Richards who finally got a puck past Leveille, netting her second NWHL goal and second in as many days when she finished off a play with her linemates Alexa Aramburu and Erika Lawler. Richards was robbed earlier in the period when the Whitecaps’ All-Star netminder stopped her on a point-blank chance.
“I try to stay humble,” said Richards when asked where her confidence level is at after scoring two goals in two days on one of the NWHL’s top netminders. “Goals are goals, but in the end I just want our team to win.”
In the third period, Minnesota poured it on as Curtis, who assisted on McGovern’s opening goal, netted her own goal with some shifty moves while shorthanded and then assisted on McGovern’s second of the game. McGovern’s second goal came less than two minutes after Madison Packer scored the Riveters' second goal of the game.
“When you work hard things start to click and things just kind of work out for you,” Curtis said. “It’s a lot of fun to play with them. They’re great players.”
Thunstrom, not to be outdone, also scored her second of the game in the third period as the Whitecaps chased Fitzgerald from the net (replaced by Kimberly Sass). Curtis and McGovern picked up assists as their line completed its domination against the Riveters.
“Coming into a new league, as far as anyone not in Minnesota is concerned, we’re the new kids on the block,” said Thunstrom. “It was nice to come in and show that we belong here. The Riveters are a great team and to walk away with four wins is incredible. It wasn’t like any of them were easy.”
Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
1. Allie Thunstrom: 2 goals, assist
2. Jonna Curtis: shorthanded goal, 3 assists
3. Katie McGovern: 2 goals, assist