Riveters Blow Lead, Fall to Beauts in Wild Game

After scoring five goals through two periods — their most goals in a game since scoring seven against the same opponent on December 27 — the New York Riveters couldn’t hold off the hard-charging Buffalo Beauts and dropped a wildly entertaining 6-5 game in a shootout. Playing in their first home game in two weeks the Riveters offense was paced by two-goal performances in the middle period from Morgan Fritz-Ward and Bray Ketchum; three of which were power play goals as New York capitalized on Buffalo’s stampede to the penalty box. Kourtney Kunichika also potted two goals for the Beauts in the game that saw the momentum pendulum swing back and forth all night long.

Down three to start the third period, the Beauts rally started on the stick of captain Emily Pfalzer and she completed the dramatic comeback with the clinching goal in the shootout. With the win, Buffalo leapfrogged past New York into third place as the season enters its six weeks. Part of the fuel to the Beauts comeback was due to some of the Riveters losing their composure in a few disputes with the officials.

“We just lost our composure. When you lose your composure, you lose your mind; and then you start making plays that aren’t necessarily our smartest, or first option,” Riveters captain Ashley Johnston told the media after the tough loss. “It’s frustrating, and definitely something that’s been building with the inconsistent reffing — but at the end of the day, that was (on) us too. We self-destructed is probably the best way to put it. We just can’t be saying stuff to the refs,” she said bluntly. “At the end of the day we need to treat them with respect; they’re out here working hard. I think it’s just unfortunate that they kind of got the brunt of the build up of our frustration of — going from rink-to-rink, game-to-game, trying to learn what the rules are at the same time.”

The Riveters played the game with only five blue-liners but Johnston, who returned after missing the previous two contests, wasn’t about to use that as an excuse for her team’s fourth loss in a row (0-3-1). “They were trying to do some dump-and-chase and I think wear us down, but we’re pretty conditioned at this point,” she confidently told The Hockey Writers. “It wasn’t too bad, all five of us (tonight), six of us as core — we work pretty hard; as well as our entire team. I wouldn’t say at this point (of the season) conditioning is a problem.”

New York Riveters
The New York Riveters line up for the national anthem at Aviator Sports Complex on November 29. (Photo courtesy of the NWHL.)

Despite the heartbreaking loss, there were a lot of positives to take out of the game for New York as they look to find their mojo heading into the postseason. “Obviously the power play has been a pretty big struggle for us, to get those two power play goals — all of a sudden we have momentum, we have confidence,” explained Johnston, “we started playing hockey that, we really want to start seeing. Especially getting closer to the playoffs, that’s the playoff-type of hockey that we want to play. That will be what will win us the Cup. Playing exactly like that. I think we had like twenty shots in that period (21), they might’ve had two (six). That’s the type of dominant hockey that we can play. Grinder style, where we go hard to the net, we get lots of shots and we’ll get the ugly goals.”

After not winning their first game until the inaugural NWHL season was six-weeks-old, the Beauts have now won two of their last three games. Along with Pflazer, fellow blue-liner Megan Bozek also scored her second in three games (on an absolute laser beam shot) and forward Tatiana Rafter netted her first goal of the season after soaring through the air following a collision in front of Jenny Scrivens’ crease.

Following a week off for the inaugural NWHL All-Star Game/Weekend the Riveters and Beauts will face-off three times in four weeks, with two of the contests in Buffalo. Both teams have identical 3-8-2 records and trail the top two teams dramatically in points, so it appears that they will be battling to stay out of the bottom of the standings/positioning for the opening round of the playoffs as they get to know each other over the next month.

“We’ll be back to work on Wednesday and Friday, watch video as a team; I hope everyone goes home and watches that second period – because that’s exactly what we have to do,” Johnston declared. “There’s no point in dwelling on the bad stuff. At this point, when you’re playing so many teams — you know all the girls on every team — you know what to expect, you know what’s going to happen. I think at this point it’s more about seeing the positive things.”

“I think we did a lot of little things right, we finally saw our power play start to come together in the second period and that was good (for us),” Rivs blue-liner Sydney Kidd told THW following the game. “Building off of Boston last weekend, that was a tough loss there; and we gave up a lot of shots from in front of the crease. (Tonight), we were pushing opposing players more to the outside, most of their shots were from the outside.”

Notes: Bozek led Buffalo and Brooke Ammerman led New York with nine shots on goal each. Lyudmila Belyakova scored the Riveters lone first period goal. Janine Weber and Kiira Dosdall racked up two assists each for New York, while Hailey Browne finished with three helpers and Devon Skeats had two for the Beauts. Scrivens stopped 35 of 40 shots on the night, while in the opposite crease Brianne McLaughlin picked up her second win of the season when she stopped 23 of 24 shots in relief of Kimberly Sass. Buffalo was without Meghan Duggan and Kelley Steadman, while Madison Packer returned to the Riveters lineup after missing the previous two.

Dan Rice can be reached via Twitter: @DRdiabloTHW or via Email: drdiablo321@yahoo.com.