PHOTO BY CRIS HARBAUGH
Connecticut Whale goaltender Meeri Räisänen continued her stellar season, earning her first NWHL shutout (and on her birthday) in a 4-0 win over the Metropolitan Riveters in front of a packed house at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Pittsburgh has continued to welcome the NWHL with open arms, hosting the 2017 All-Star Game and a neutral site contest between the Whale and Buffalo Beauts last season – with large, passionate crowd every time.
The Riveters and Whale had met three times in as many weeks, splitting the two previous meetings in Newark, both one-goal decisions.
“It’s been great to gain this momentum the past three games,” said Nina Rodgers, whose first goal of the season just 3:28 into the game held up as the game-winner. “We’ve gotten seven of the nine points that were available. And it’s just awesome. We’re definitely buzzing. And with Meeri getting the shutout on her birthday and in front of this great crowd, it just couldn’t get much better.”
After Rodgers staked the Whale to the 1-0 lead, Juana Baribeau had a chance to double it later in the period, blocking a shot in the defensive zone before taking off on a breakaway, but Riveters goaltender Katie Fitzgerald denied the opportunity.
The Riveters had a power-play opportunity late in the first, and Alexa Gruschow nearly capitalized, as her shot from in close that rang across the crossbar and out. Early in the second period, Rebecca Russo had a chance to tie it up, but Räisänen shut down another Riveters power play, making a pair of acrobatic saves in the final minutes of the game to preserve the shutout. Baribeau then fired into the empty net to seal the win. made the toe save at the post to preserve her team’s lead.
The Whale pushed the lead to 2-0 as Katerina Mrázová extended her goal streak to four games with her fifth of the season late in the second period, burying a pass from Rodgers on the right post.
Shannon Doyle gave the Whale a 3-0 lead early in the third period, interrupting the Riveters’ breakout and coming in alone on Fitzgerald, making a move and tucking in a low shot for her second of the season.
“It was a great play by our forwards to force that pass from boards to boards,” said Doyle. “It was coming. On each shift we had been more and more energy.”
Räisänen shut down another Riveters power play, making a pair of acrobatic saves in the final minutes of the game to preserve the shutout. Baribeau then fired into the empty net to seal the win.
Connecticut heads to Buffalo next weekend for a 6 p.m. game on Saturday against the Beauts at HarborCenter. The Riveters return home to host the Boston Pride on Sunday at 2 p.m. at RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House. Tickets for both games are available at NWHL.zone/tickets.