This season the Metropolitan Riveters had their best season ever, finishing in first place in the NWHL standings with a 13-3-0 record; in their two previous seasons, they totaled 12 wins. Their team dominated the league in just about every statistical category from the first weekend until the end of the season, and they have the league’s MVP Alexa Gruschow (as voted by the NWHL players) and the league’s Best Defender Courtney Burke (as voted by select media). Last weekend the Riveters won their first-ever playoff game in a 5-0 triumph over the Connecticut Whale in the semifinals.
The Rivs came away winners in the first three matchups of 2017-18 against the Buffalo Beauts before the defending champions won the final three games between the rivals. Last season in the semifinals it was the Beauts who eliminated the Riveters in the same rink that will host the winner-take-all 2018 Isobel Cup Final. Buffalo ended the Riveters’ 11-game winning streak and come into the championship game on their own 11-game winning streak after eliminating the Boston Pride in overtime last weekend in the semifinals.
1) Madison Packer
The Beauts may be the league’s hottest team, but no player has been hotter than Madison Packer, who won the goal-scoring title in the last game of the season with a hat trick against Boston. She followed that up with a shorthanded goal and two assists last weekend in the semifinals and the 26-year-old forward has three goals against the Beauts this season. Her line has really found some chemistry of late – as the Whale found out last weekend when the trio of Packer-Erika Lawler-Rebecca Russo combined for eight points (3g-5a).
“Over half of our locker room was there last year when we lost to Buffalo in the playoffs and I thought we played a great game; it just didn’t go our way,”: Riveters forward Miye D’Oench. The sting of last season’s elimination is still felt by the Riveters and has been used as motivation this season as the majority of the group returned for another season together in a quest for redemption. D’Oench missed the final three games against the Beauts (all losses) with an injury, but in the first three games (all wins) she had seven points (3g-4a).
3) Lesson Learned
The only team to beat the Riveters this season was the Beauts, and they did it three times in a row – twice in eight days in New Jersey. As we just mentioned D’Oench was unavailable, but the rest of the team believes it was a good learning experience or reality check after such a successful start. “We went through a little bit of a slump but we’ve come out of it and I’m really confident with the team we have going into the game against Buffalo,” Lawler said after the semifinal win against Connecticut. “We’re pumped to play them again.”
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.