History continues for the NWHL and the New York Riveters as season two of the league begins this weekend. With a major roster overhaul in the offseason, it may be hard to decipher what their lineup can do against the other three members of the league, but one thing is for sure – they will surely have more offensive firepower. Only eight players return to the team (two of which are practice players, for now), which easily makes them the team with the biggest turnover among the players.
The Riveters added some dynamic players to their lineup, both on offense and on defense as well as adding a completely new crew in net. Just like last season, the Boston Pride are the team to beat, and the reigning Isobel Cup champs haven’t lost a game since January. The Rivs will get their first crack at the Pride on opening weekend during a neutral site game in Buffalo (October 8) which kicks off the second season of the NWHL.
— Metropolitan Riveters (@Riveters) August 15, 2016
The biggest addition to the team is obviously the dynamic and dazzling Amanda Kessel, who not only gives the Riveters a superstar, world-class talent – but it also brings them some instant name-recognition in a league that is just beginning to settle their footprints on the professional sports landscape. She was by far and away the biggest addition to the league this offseason. Kessel will be considered a rookie this season, but she is no ordinary rookie. She wins, a lot, and it shouldn’t be long before the league starts to be wary of her game-changing and take-over abilities.
Other big additions include two more NWHL rookies – Rebecca Russo (Boston University), Miye D’Oench (Harvard) as well as Tatiana Rafter who played with the Buffalo Beauts last season.
Here’s what the lines likely will look like (via one of the players) as the season gets underway.
Miye D’Oench – Amanda Kessel – Janine Weber
Alexa Gruschow -Morgan Fritz-Ward – Bray Ketchum
Madison Packer – Rebecca Russo – Tatiana Rafter
The Riveters defense only returns two holdovers from season one, but they added so much talent on the blue line that by the end of the season they could have the most dynamic defenders in the league. They also added a lot of height, which will likely be crucial when trying to defend against taller players like Boston’s Hilary Knight, Buffalo’s Shiann Darkangelo and Kelly Babstock from the Connecticut Whale.
Though they will be technically sporting three NWHL rookies on the back end, don’t expect any growing pains for these talented women who join the league as highly decorated collegiate players.
Here are the likely pairings (again via one of the players) as season two begins.
Kaleigh Fratkin – Michelle Picard
Milica McMillen – Courtney Burke
Ashley Johnston – Kiira Dosdall
The biggest question mark, or x-factor, heading into the new season will be the goalies for the Riveters. With Jenny Scrivens, Chelsea Laden, and Nana Fujimoto all out of the NWHL now and one of their offseason additions – Jaimie Leonoff – injured for likely the entire campaign, the Rivs will turn to two rookie puck stoppers/virtual unknowns in net. Having said that, competition is always a good thing and it should be fun to see who takes the reigns – we all know how much a hot goalie can carry a team.
Here are the two netminders that will start the season as the last line of defense for the Riveters.
Katie Fitzgerald – Sojung Shin
Just because they aren’t starting the season in uniform doesn’t mean they won’t have an impact; Last season Buffalo’s Kelley Steadman was fifth in points (20) and third in goals (13). This season the practice players for the Riveters will be:
Sarah Bryant – Goalie
Gabie Figueroa, Rebecca Morse – Defense
Julia Herr, Taylor Holze – Forwards
You Heard It Here First!
Last season the Riveters finished last in the league in the standings as well as a lot of other categories, so there is room for improvement for sure and it would be a major shock if they finished fourth again. Expect a much better season for them this season, and in fact – don’t be too surprised if it ends up being New York v Boston for the 2017 Isobel Cup.
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.