We have a trade to announce! For only the second time during an NWHL season, there has been a trade and it involves the same two teams that first pulled off a swap during the league’s inaugural season. On Jan. 2 the Metropolitan Riveters acquired goaltender Maria Sorokina from the Connecticut Whale in exchange for future considerations. In a corresponding move, first reported by Erica Ayala, the Riveters also released forward Fiona McKenna in what was described as an amicable understanding.
The Riveters still have 22/25 roster spots filled with three spots available to add free agents or draft picks (once their college season ends) for the stretch run. The Whale, for now, only have two goalies on their roster – Meeri Räisänen and Sam Walther.
Sorokina hadn’t appeared in any games for the Whale this season, so if/when she debuts for the Riveters it will be the first time she’s on the ice during an NWHL game other than pregame warmups. The 23-year-old Russian netminder will obviously have to battle current Rivs goalies Katie Fitzgerald, Kimberly Sass, and Sarah Bryant for ice-time. But one would think the team wouldn’t have traded for a goalie that they aren’t going to play at all, right?
With two and a half months left in the 2018-19 season, the Riveters currently find themselves at the bottom of the NWHL standings (2-8-0). Last year’s playoff MVP Fitzgerald (1-7-0) has not had a stellar campaign – already surrendering as many goals as she did during all of last season (28) and Sass has been more than admirable in her two starts (1-1-0). Perhaps the Rivs are planning to play Sorokina at some point in a last-ditch effort to jump-start their team during one of the final six regular season games as we approach the 2019 Isobel Cup playoffs.
“Our coaching staff and the team are excited to welcome Maria to the Riveters and New Jersey,” Riveters head coach Randy Velischek said in a press release announcing the deal. “She is a proven goaltender with an international pedigree who will make our already deep and highly-skilled goaltending corps even stronger.”
Sorokina has represented the Russian National Team at the World Championships three times (2015, 2016, 2017), and played the last four seasons in the Zhenskaya Hockey League for Dynamo St. Petersburg and Agidel Ufa. During the NWHL preseason in 2016, she proved that she is capable of competing at this level when she played in and won two preseason games for Team Russia against Connecticut and the Boston Pride, surrendering three goals on the 45 total shots that she faced.
“I want to start off by thanking the Connecticut Whale for the work. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to continue my journey in America. I wish the Whale and their fans good luck and good health,” Sorokina said in a statement via the NWHL after the trade was announced.
“Thank you to the Riveters, Coach Randy, Hayley Moore, and everyone who took part in my trade. I did not want to miss the opportunity to play in this league. I was patient and put my trust in these people, and as a result, I now have a chance with a great team,” added Sorokina, “and I have been welcomed into a wonderful house with a wonderful family! I am really happy and am waiting for my first practice and the first game in a Riveters jersey! To the Riveters and our fans: I will try to justify your trust and each time put my heart on the ice in order to bring as many victories as possible.”
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.