The NWHL’s 2021 bubble season in Lake Placid opened on Saturday afternoon with a matchup between the Metropolitan Riveters and the Toronto Six. It was the first game in franchise history for the Six, but the headlines were stolen by a Rivs team that looked like they mean business at Herb Brooks Arena.
Leila Kilduff scored a pair of goals, including the first in the bubble, while Emily Janiga also lit the lamp and Sonjia Shelly made 40 saves in the 3-0 victory. Although outshot 40-19 in the game, the Rivs were able to push through and collect the first victory in the bubble. They turned around on Sunday and picked up another key victory.
This time, the Rivs scored a 4-3 decision over the Connecticut Whale. Mallory Rushton and Cailey Hutchinson scored eight seconds apart in the first period to give Metropolitan a 2-0 lead. The Whale pushed back and evened the score, but Rebecca Russo and Theresa Knutson would both light the lamp in the win. Tera Hofmann made her first start in the bubble, and made 33 saves on 36 shots for the victory.
At 2-0-0, the Riveters are in strong position to make a good run in Lake Placid. They return to the ice for game action on Tuesday at 5:30 pm and will face their stiffest test yet. The Riveters will take on the Minnesota Whitecaps in the first of a doubleheader. After that? They battle Buffalo at 8:30 pm on Wednesday night.
It’s early, and teams like the Whitecaps and Boston Pride are not going to be easy outs, but the Riveters are off to a great start and are building confidence. Maybe the most important thing? They appear to have two goalies who are very much up to the task. In a shorter tournament-like setup like this, that could be the key to an Isobel Cup.
Whitecaps Win Marquee Matchup
All of the hockey is good, but the matchup I was most looking forward to personally was Saturday’s meeting between the Whitecaps and Pride. The two were set to battle for the Isobel Cup in the spring, but the Final was postponed and eventually cancelled due to COVID-19. Finally, they took the ice against each other in the season opener for both sides.
The game lived up to the billing.
Christina Putigna opened the scoring 13:19 into the hockey game, but the Whitecaps responded immediately with a Jonna Curtis tally at 14:22. Winny Brodt Brown broke the tie at 11:59 of the second period, while Amanda Leveille stopped 36 shots in the win.
Minnesota finished a weekend sweep on Sunday when they scored the game’s final four goals to stun Toronto 6-5 in regulation.
This N’ That
The Pride are way too talented to start 0-2-0 after Saturday’s loss. That just simply was not going to happen. They crushed Buffalo by a final score of 5-1 on Sunday afternoon to get to 1-1-0. Jillian Dempsey (2 g) and Kaleigh Fratkin (3 a) paced the Pride’s offensive attack in the victory. McKenna Brand (1 g, 1 a) and Taylor Wenczkowski (1 g, 1 a) also chipped in on offense.
I know the Pride lost that Isobel Cup Final ‘supposed to be rematch’, but I thought they carried the play most of the game. To me, the Pride are the deepest and most complete team in the NWHL. I would not be surprised if they completed their unfinished business and brought some hardware to Boston.
They are the city’s best hope at a championship now.
How about the Whale? Connecticut went 2-20-2 last season before stunning Buffalo in the play-in game last March. So far in the bubble, the Whale are 1-1-0 and gave the Riveters everything they could handle on Sunday. Wednesday’s matchup against the Pride will be very interesting. Could there be an ‘Underdog story’ in the making here?
Before we conclude, we have to congratulate Sammy Davis on her first professional goal for the Pride! Davis, who was a star at Boston University and was the top choice in this past spring’s draft, has done so much off the ice already in her young career. She also skated in the EWSHL this summer, and I was lucky enough to see first-hand just how good of a person she is. It’s awesome to see good things happening for good people!
The NWHL has a day off from games today. Tomorrow, it’s right back at it with a doubleheader of action. Minnesota and Metropolitan kick off the action at 5:30 pm, while Boston and Toronto conclude the night at 8:30 pm. It’ll be the first-ever meeting between Boston and Toronto in the NWHL. Will we see a rivalry born tomorrow night inside of Herb Brooks Arena?