A Good Loss: The New York Riveters Snatch Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

Last Sunday, the New York Riveters put up their best game yet versus Connecticut, managing to hold the Whale to 3 goals while the win-hungry Brooklynites scored just one. Their second consecutive home game showed considerably more team cohesiveness and notably improved on-ice awareness from their prior games, particularly last week’s …significant defeat by the Boston Pride.

The lone Riveters goal was scored by Ashley Johnston in the second period, which served to bring them even with the Whale, who scored their first goal midway through the first. A 1-1 tie game at the end of 40 minutes is as good as the Rivs have looked thus far, and there was a moment where it seemed like they might pull off their first-ever win. Even when the Whale’s Kaleigh Fratkin scored just over two minutes into the final period, the win felt almost within reach. At the end of the third, the decision to pull Nana Fujimoto from the net for another attacker made a ton of sense. Unfortunately, the Riveters couldn’t manage to keep the game moving in their direction for a tying goal, and instead they allowed another Connecticut goal for a final score of 3-1.

And yet… I’m excited. This was not the penalty-happy, pass-missing, physical-in-a-bad-way team we saw as recently as last weekend. In fact, after Lyudmila Belyakova took two hooking minors in under five minutes at the end of the first, the Riveters didn’t take another penalty for over 25 minutes, including the entirety of the second…. a period during which the Whale were held scoreless. CRAZY. It is worth noting that both non-empty net goals by the Whale were scored while on the powerplay, so the Riveters still have some work to do on their penalty kill.

Nana Fujimoto (recommended listening: Na Na Na Na Naa by Kaiser Chiefs) played the entire game, making 17 saves, some of which were entirely improbable and a big component of the closeness of the score. After three games, the biggest shooters on the Riveters are Brooke Ammerman (12), Bray Ketchum (11) and Janine Weber (10)—Ammerman’s persistence and paid off with one of the team’s three regular season goals thus far, and I’m hoping that Ketchum and Weber’s shots start to find the back of the net soon.

The NWHL is looking pretty uneven after three games played per team—only the Whale and the Boston Pride have won, while the Buffalo Beauts remain in the same sorry winless state as the Riveters. After less than a month, I’m still willing to attribute this to the newness of the league and hold out for the win I know is coming. Frankly, after last weekend, this feels almost like a win. Like the Riveters are finally doing some of the right things, and they’re either paying off or are right on the verge of doing so.

Headed into a break for the 4 Nations Cup, the Riveters won’t play for three weeks before returning to face back-to-back games against the Pride in late November. The dominance of the Pride thus far and their rough first matchup in New York will definitely present a challenge, but I’m hoping the Riveters can come back in great shape and keep their composure through those games.

In conclusion, four rejected titles for this article:

  • The Rivs Have the Same Win/Loss Record as My 5th Grade Basketball Team
  • I Dream a Dream that One Day the Riveters Will Have a Multi-Goal Game
  • It’s Been 3 Games and I’m Still Unclear as to the Official Riveters Emoji
  • If This Is How I React to Losing by 2 Imagine What I’ll Do When The Rivs Win

See you in November, steadfast Riveters fans! May the break pass quickly and may Celeste Brown favorite all of your tweets.

Buffalo Beauts: What’s working, what needs some work

We’re a couple of days removed from the Buffalo Beauts’ latest tilt against the Boston Pride, and it’s a great time — heading into the two-week break leading up to and through the 4 Nations Cup — to re-visit what went well and what the Beauts still need to work on.

What worked:

  • The forecheck. It was relentless throughout much of the game. The Beauts came out flying and focused, and it certainly showed, as they swarmed Brittany Ott and tried their best to get her moving. This was also a game where you saw the Beauts’ speed up close — they were either neck-and-neck or winning races to loose pucks most of the time.
  • Kelley Steadman. The forward leads the Beauts and is second in the league in goals scored after potting two more Sunday. Co-head coach Ric Seiling had nothing but praise for her post-game, calling her “a force on the ice.” She keeps finding ways to get to the net and swing things her team’s way.
  • The defense. It had some breakdowns that led to goals for Boston, but more important was the improved zone coverage and how it led to quicker clears out of the zone and better transitions the other way as the game progressed.

What needs work:

  • The penalty kill. While it’s forced two shorthanded goals so far this season, it’s also allowed more goals than any of the other teams (four, according to the NWHL’s stats page). Granted, two of the games they’ve played already have been against a team with a stacked offense, but tightening up and limiting opponents’ lanes is certainly a focus.
  • Shots against. The Beauts have a world-class goaltender in Brianne McLaughlin, and Steadman joked during post-game that “she’s one of those weird goalies who likes (lots of shots),” but her teammates are already aware of the need to not tire her out or risk injury to her in the long run. 40-plus shots a game can wear down even the best goalies, so cutting that in half or even down by 10 could keep her sharp for playoffs.
  • Finishing chances. This has become a bit of a running theme — it’s been apparent during each game that the Beauts have had good looks at their opponents, but are pushing a lot of their shots just wide or hitting the chest. Accuracy and picking shots are definitely necessary to beat any of these goalies in the NWHL.
  • Faceoffs. Meghan Duggan and Shelby Bram went 7-6 and 10-13, respectively, in the dot, but after them, no one has come close to being dominant. Possession is key, and right now the Beauts don’t quite have it yet.

Notes:

  • The game featured what looks like the first penalty shot in NWHL history, taken by Boston’s Kelly Cooke. Brianne McLaughlin made an easy deflection with the glove.

    Penalty shot awarded to Boston’s Kelly Cooke. Easily handled by @briannemcl. #BuffaloBeauts #BostonPride #NWHL

    A video posted by Angelica Renee (@reinadelaisla) on

  • Seiling mentioned a flu bug had gone through the Beauts’ locker room, and Kourtney Kunichika and Courtney Carnes were both affected, resulting in them not seeing ice basically all week. Apparently, it was a lucky flu bug for Kunichika — she recorded both her first point and her first goal in one game.
  • More from D Paige Harrington on limiting shots for McLaughlin: “We’re definitely trying to improve on that. We have a hell of a goalie who’s keeping us in the game. As forwards and even as defensemen, we’re trying to get up into the play, create shots when you can, not holding onto the puck too long, and crashing the net hard. We’re a fast team, so that’s what we want to focus on.”
  • Five players– Devon Skeats, Lindsay Grigg, Amanda Makela, Jessica Fickel and Erin Zach– are still unable to play as their visa issues get resolved. Seiling on once they get into the fold: “When you’ve got as many players here as we do, I don’t think it’ll be as difficult as some might think. You wonder about their game shape… There’s one thing about being in practice shape, but you get into game shape by being in the game, and that’s a totally different aspect of it. They might know the game plan, but getting them up to speed with the rest of the girls, I think that’ll be the biggest thing.” As of yet, there has been no new information regarding visas for players.
  • It was Father-Daughter Day at the HarborCenter Sunday, and a bunch of the Beauts’ dads were on hand to watch their daughters play. Hayley Williams and her father Tom graciously agreed to appear for the media, and it was an emotional moment for everyone involved. Her father revealed how he would drive 12 hours each way to northern Minnesota and back to watch her play, and Williams quipped, “Now it’s only eight.”
  • Tom Williams on watching Hayley play: “It’s almost unbelievable. I’m so proud. That’s all I can say. She’s really worked hard her entire life. I saw the opener, and my first thought was, ‘She did it.’ She’s playing on a great team. It’s just a fantastic experience.”
  • Williams on her hockey bond with her father: “It would be weird if he wasn’t at a game. For 25 years of my life he’s been at every game. It’s nothing different now than last year at college. He’s just been there the whole time. He’s my guy, you know?”
  • With two weeks to regroup, everyone stressed the need to focus on sharpening skills on and off the ice. Seiling mentioned working on both sides of the puck and working on creating opportunities in front of the net as on-ice focuses for his players.

 

Be sure to catch 4 Nations Cup action starting Nov. 4. Most games will be live-streamed. Meanwhile, the Beauts return to action against the Whale Nov. 15 at HarborCenter. The puck drops at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Buffalo Beauts Winless Going Into 4 Nations Break

The Buffalo Beauts are winless in their first three games of the season, but are gaining momentum heading into the 4 Nations Cup break. They held the Boston Pride to the wire, but ultimately the Pride came out with a win, 5-3, on the strength of a hat trick (including an empty-netter) by Brianna Decker.

Outshot 48-28, the Beauts still relied on Brianne McLaughlin for support, but found plenty of offensive opportunities and looked good on the power play. Kelley Steadman continued her excellent play over the past couple of weeks with two goals, and Kourtney Kunichika broke through for a goal and an assist. McLaughlin had a banner night with 44 saves, many of them acrobatic, in her third straight start facing 40-plus shots.

“I love it. It reminds me of my college days,” the Beauts netminder said with a grin after the game. “I’d rather be busy than just hanging out. Maybe with fewer goals, though.”

Although the Beauts have allowed 13 goals against so far this season, everyone on the ice and behind the bench agreed the defensive effort has improved, particularly in this game.

“The D played phenomenal in their own zone,” co-head coach Ric Seiling said. “They took control of the puck and caused separation between the (opposing) player and the puck. No one really got away from their position tonight.”

The Pride got on the board first on a goal by a flying Brianna Decker down the right wing, but that high didn’t last long, as the Beauts swarmed Brittany Ott’s net, getting chances that just missed wide or high. Despite the lopsided shot total after one (19-6 Pride), there was a definite edge to Buffalo’s game that suggested this would not be an easy one for the Pride.

Boston would escape the opening period with the 1-0 lead, but just 2:19 into the second, Kelley Steadman shook off her defender and capitalized on a rebound from a Meghan Duggan shot to tie it up. The Pride answered quickly on a goal by Emily Field, and then put some distance between them and the Beauts on Decker’s second of the game.

Late in the middle frame, however, Steadman came in alone shorthanded, throwing a shot on net that Ott stopped, but with three Pride players tangled up with Kunichika, Steadman was able to swing around and collect her own rebound, potting it on a nice backhand to cut the lead to one.

The third period began with some chippy play from both teams, with frustration starting to show a bit on Boston’s end. The Beauts, meanwhile, executed great play in their own zone and the neutral zone to push the Pride back, negating quite a few zone entry opportunities. It took a power play for Gigi Marvin to finally get Boston’s lead back up to two, but as was the theme for the afternoon, the Beauts weren’t letting up.

Kunichika scored her first goal of the season and her NWHL career by following up a rebound from a booming shot by Megan Bozek, pulling Buffalo back to within one, and it looked as though a tying goal could happen. However, Kunichika then took an untimely hooking penalty with about two minutes to go, and eventually Decker got the empty-net goal to complete the first hat trick in NWHL history and the win for the Pride.

Still, Seiling and players alike found plenty of positives aside from the score to consider.

“I think tonight we put them in a position I don’t think they’ve had before, only up by one going into the third period, and we were knocking on the door,” he said. “We might have put them into some uncomfortable waters. Our girls kept pressing, sticking to the game plan and creating opportunities.”

Defender Paige Harrington emphasized the hard work her teammates have put in on and off the ice as a reason for the Beauts’ progress, saying she feels as though they’re finally becoming a unit.

“I think we’re getting there,” she said. “We’re a tough team, we shouldn’t be taken lightly, and I think we proved that going out there today, getting physical, giving Boston a good game.”

Meanwhile on offense, Steadman has become unstoppable, creating as many chances as she is able to finish and almost always at the front of the net. Her output comes at an incredible pace, but she deflects all credit.

“It’s really coming from great work from my teammates,” she said. “I just try to stick around the net and do what I can to get the puck there… It’s great for us to get some opportunities and get some goals to try to win a game here.”

The Beauts’ best game of the season comes at an almost inopportune moment, with the league about to take two weeks off to give the U.S. National Team’s players time to prepare for the 4 Nations Cup. With 11 players between the two teams that competed Sunday at HarborCenter, conditioning won’t be an issue; meanwhile, those on the Beauts who aren’t going to be at the tournament will have a chance to hone their skills and strength.

“No days off, right?” Harrington said. “I’m flying home but I’ll be working out every day and just making sure I’m staying focused because when we come back, we want to make sure we stay where we’re at, not taking steps back.”

The Beauts resume play at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 15 against the Connecticut Whale at HarborCenter. Tickets are available via nwhl.co, and streaming is free via NWHL Cross-Ice Pass on YouTube. All games are archived for easy and free access after the games are over.

Weekly News: NWHL on NHL Network, NWHL Fighting Code

Buffalo Beauts lose to the Connecticut Whale, outshot and out of time

The Buffalo Beauts ended another game outshot and out of time, as a couple of late goals by the Connecticut Whale led to them getting the win, 5-2, at HarborCenter Sunday.

Just moments after Kelly Steadman scored to pull the Beauts to within a goal, Maggie Giamo took a body checking penalty that Connecticut’s Molly Engstrom cashed in on 11 seconds in, putting the game out of reach for a team that until that point didn’t look like what the stats were suggesting. An empty-netter by Kaleigh Fratkin sealed the deal for the 2-0 Whale, who blew out the Riveters 4-1 in their home opener at Chelsea Piers.

The Whale struck first in the opening period, as Alyssa Wohlfeiler got behind the Buffalo Beauts’ defense and took advantage of a rebound by Brianne McLaughlin. But Meghan Duggan scored a shorthanded goal with 3:48 to go in the frame to tie it up, and everything looked good despite the fact the Beauts were being outshot by nearly double. The offense was getting good looks, crisper passes, and better breakouts, and McLaughlin had rebounded from her goal against to make some point-blank saves.

Connecticut poured on 16 more shots to Buffalo’s eight over the course of the second period, but aside from Samantha Faber redirecting a Fratkin slapper from the blueline, nothing got past McLaughlin. The Beauts in turn had plenty of opportunities that lacked finish; chances and breakaways by Giamo, Steadman, Emily Pfalzer and others missed, were fanned on or went sailing wide of the crease. Still, only down by a goal heading into the final period, things were looking up.

Buffalo dominated the first part of the third, battling for and maintaining possession and throwing plenty of rubber Laden’s way. At one point it even looked as though the game was tied, but the shot by Kourtney Kunichika was disallowed due to an apparent crease violation. Then Connecticut’s Kate Buesser spun Annmarie Cellino around on her heels and slipped the puck through McLaughlin’s pads, making it 3-1. This would be the eventual game-winner.

Though Steadman’s goal galvanized both the crowd and the Beauts with less than three minutes to go, the penalty on Giamo was the backbreaker, setting Buffalo back on its heels at a moment when it looked poised to at least try and tie it up. Engstrom sent a strong wrister from the blueline that got through multiple players in front of McLaughlin, making it 4-2 and eventually keeping the Beauts looking for a win.

It’s tempting to make assumptions at this point about this Beauts team, but there are things to take into account. This is a team that is still trying to come together and figure itself out; moreover, they’re doing that without five of their rostered players, who are still out of the lineup with visa issues. They’re getting production and good play from the players they need it the most from (namely, Duggan and Pfalzer, as well as McLaughlin). Plus, it took them much less time to settle in and play a good game than it did last week, which is a step in the right direction.

There were a lot of good things from both rostered and unrostered players alike; though the finish isn’t there yet, Megan Bozek’s shot certainly is, and Giamo (aside from her untimely penalty) and Hailey Browne were all over the ice, getting their chances when they could find them. It’s a matter of time before things start clicking for them, and it may take even longer than desired once the missing players — Devon Skeats, Lindsay Grigg, Erin Zach, Jessica Fickel, and Amanda Makela — come into the fold. But that’s what patience is for. It’s just Game Two, after all.

The Beauts try again next week when the Boston Pride come back into town. Puck drop is at 3:30 p.m. at HarborCenter.

Notes: Final shot totals were 43-34 Whale… Sunday’s game at HarborCenter was the Beauts’ Strides for the Cure game for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October). The Beauts wore special black and pink jerseys that were signed and auctioned off after the game ended. Erie County Medical Center CEO Richard Cleland took the ceremonial puck drop with team captains/representatives Emily Pfalzer and Kaleigh Fratkin, and the ECMC Mobile Mammography Coach (which provides mammograms to women in underserved parts of the community) was outside HarborCenter early in the afternoon.

Brianna Decker & Zoe Hickel lead Boston Pride To Roll Over New York Riveters

Let’s get it out of the way: the New York Riveters lost 7-1 to the Boston Pride at their home opener on Sunday night. Do I want to talk about it? No. Have I committed to do so for you, the good people of the internet? Yes. So let’s go.

A potent combination of seasonal allergies, midterms and unforeseen circumstances kept me away from Aviator Sports & Events (the New York Riveters’ home rink) on Sunday night, but according to the team there were over 1,000 fans in attendance for the game, many of whom lined up well in advance to get into the building. I watched via the free YouTube live-streaming that the NWHL has set up, which was glitchy/non-functional for about half of the first period, and then required link switches and refreshes throughout as the tech team reconfigured. Once the second period came around, it was great to have the Riveters’ home commentator join the broadcast—for this game, it was just one announcer (named Carmine, I believe) since his co-commentator was helping triage streaming problems, but she will generally be on mic in the future. Very cool, and a helpful touch for newer fans, who might have a harder time following the action without commentary.

Is it blatantly obvious that I don’t want to talk about the hockey? It is, right?

The Boston Pride were delayed in traffic and arrived at the arena late, causing the 7:00pm game to be held off for over an hour (puck drop around 8:20pm), but regardless of the wait, the atmosphere seemed electric, even through the live-stream (which had its own jocular fan comment section). Although their warmups were cut short, the Pride exploded out of the gate, with Zoe Hickel netting their first goal on the first shot of the game, just 55 seconds in. Which was FINE.

The Riveters didn’t seem terribly outmatched in the first period—they had a goal waved off just a few minutes in and Janine Weber’s line was making serious moves with around five minutes left. Then Brianna Decker scored for the Pride to close out the first, which wasn’t ideal, but, again, it happens. A two-goal lead is the worst in hockey, right? Right. Shots on goal at the end of the first period were only slightly tipped in Boston’s favor, at Pride 13, Riveters 11.

The Riveters started the second period on the penalty kill, which was no fun at all, given their history with powerplays—but it turns out that wasn’t the real concern this time, because even as the man advantage tipped in their favor immediately after (as the Pride lost a player to a tripping call) Brianna Decker scored a shorthanded goal to make it 3-0. Well, if a two-goal lead is bad… a three-goal lead has got to be worse. Or so I hoped.

This was about halfway through the game, at which point both teams switched goalies—Lundberg came in for Fujimoto on the Riveters’ end and Ott for Slebodnick. With that change, it seemed possible that the Riveters might be able to bring the game back under their control, and Gabie Figueroa’s goal late in the second felt portentous. It was 3-1. Shots on goal for the second were almost equal (22-21 BOS). It was all happening. Don’t call it a comeback!

No, seriously. Don’t. Seventeen seconds into the third period, Zoe Hickel struck again. 4-1. And in the next five minutes, the barrage began on Lundberg. While I’m sure the stats will tell the real story, it certainly felt like the Pride were simply parked in front of the Riveters’ net, constantly battering the players (goalie and defense alike) with shots, and the Riveters just… weren’t doing a lot. In the space of one minute, Buie and Bolden both scored to bring the score to a formidable 6-1 lead for Boston.

It was clear that the team and fans alike were frustrated, with the already reactive crowd booing every move the Pride made, the Riveters getting scrappier (including the beginnings of a fight by Amber Moore) and more penalty-happy, and even Coach Wiseman, who apparently drew a bench penalty in the third, though the details surrounding that were thin on the ground.

None of this, of course, is meant to suggest that the Riveters had given up at this point. Janine Weber had an incredible breakaway in the middle of the third (denied by Ott), and though it was hard to tell who exactly was involved from the live-stream, many Riveters (like Ashley Johnston) were blocking shots like it was nobody’s business. But by the time Jordan Smelker of the Pride scored to bring the game to 7-1, it seemed like the physical play that had been keeping Boston on their toes in the first was just giving the Pride more and more chances to score in the late minutes of the game.

And that was the end of it. Definitely a tough night to be a Riveters fan. As tempting as it is to ascribe this loss to a dominant Boston team, I do think this game, as well as the Riveters’ pre-season and regular season record thus far, reflected more about the team and the way they’re playing. The Riveters are also very quick to draw penalties, which they need to get away from doing, if this is the result. Apparently the coaching staff said the Riveters’ compete level was ‘zero’ for this game—which I can’t really judge—but when you’ve never won a game, maybe morale is at zero too. From what I can see, there are definitely certain players who are always almost where they need to be, or almost scoring. The hard part, I guess, is actually making those things happen.

The Riveters return to Aviator next Sunday night to face the Connecticut Whale again… and this time, it’s personal.

Second Look: Buffalo Beauts against the Connecticut Whale

It’s been a few days since the Buffalo Beauts opened their season at HarborCenter against the Boston Pride. They dropped that game 4-1, but got better progressively throughout and have some promise heading into next week’s match up against the Connecticut Whale.

Let’s look at what worked for the Beauts and what didn’t against the Pride:

What Worked:

  • Brianne McLaughlin. Aside from a five-hole goal by Hilary Knight, the Beauts netminder did a fantastic job. She kept her team competitive, moving well, keeping the pads down, maintaining excellent position and playing the puck only when necessary, allowing her defenders to do their jobs against a loaded Boston offense. McLaughlin finished the night with 39 saves, prompting teammate Meghan Duggan to call her a “stud” during the post-game media scrum.
  • Their speed. I keep saying it, but the Beauts are a quick team. Their best chances came mostly off the rush, catching Boston by surprise heading into the offensive zone. Once they got the D confused and goaltender Brittany Ott moving a little bit, they had some good opportunities to score… but we’ll get to that in a minute.

What Got Better:

  • The power play. Boston is a tough team and they got more undisciplined as the game went on. In fact, it was a 5-on-3 that led to the Beauts’ first goal, by Kelley Steadman. Once Buffalo was able to establish a presence, they moved the puck well and took a few more shots than they had been earlier in the game.
  • The offense in general. It took a while for Buffalo’s forwards to get out of their own zone, plus tough D and neutral zone play by the Pride forced them back, but the third period (again) saw their best opportunities yet. They entered the zone well, maintained puck possession and did well on the backcheck to force turnovers.

What Needs Work:

  • Finishing chances. So many shots pushed just wide, especially on the rush where they were getting them early on. Ott is a good goalie, but she tends to move a little early, and there were more than a couple of instances where that could have been exploited, if not for a wide shot. Finish does come with time, so I’m hoping that’s the case here.
  • Communication, especially in the defensive zone. Line changes were a little jumbled at times, as was who was marking whom in the D zone, which led to a few chances going Boston’s way. Again, something that will probably come with more time playing with each other, but still a valid concern.

Odds and Ends:

  • Duggan had a busy night. She tallied an assist on Steadman’s goal with a beautiful cross-ice pass, but before that she’d made a beautiful drive up the right wing that was foiled by a sprawling Kacey Bellamy. She also took the Beauts’ first penalty, a boarding minor with 6:28 to go in the game.
  • Official attendance was marked at 1,231, but could easily have been more, since it was definitely standing-room only as the puck dropped.
  • Co-head coach Ric Seiling has two words to describe Beauts D Emily Pfalzer: Tasmanian Devil. “She’s fast, she’s nonstop, she’s persistent… she’s everything you look for in a hockey player,” he said of the diminutive blueliner, who was all over the ice Sunday.
  • Pfalzer, a native of nearby Getzville, on the crowd at HarborCenter: “It was unbelievable. I don’t think any other place would have a crowd like this, so it was awesome… I wouldn’t expect anything else from Buffalo.”
  • McLaughlin on the Pride: “We know they’re a fast team, we know they’re strong, and I was actually impressed with how we handled it. They have a little more experience playing with each other in Boston, and we’re kind of coming together here, but we battled.”

The Beauts drop the puck again at 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday against the Whale. Tickets are available in-house or via nwhl.co. Live streaming via YouTube is available via NWHL Cross-Ice Pass, and games are archived on YouTube after being aired.

CWHL Weekend Preview: Season openers, and streaming!

CWHL Season Opener Preview

The Brampton Thunder will face down Les Canadiennes on Saturday, October 17th at 4:30 PM CT / 5:30 PM ET in Desmarteau Arena, and again on Sunday, October 18th, at 12:30 PM CT / 1:30 PM ET.

Last year, the Brampton Thunder finished out the season at the bottom of the league with 14 points in 24 games, while the former Montreal Stars finished third, with 29 points in 24 games. Brampton’s made some changes, including a new head coach and the first overall draft pick, Sarah Edney. New head coach Tyler Fines is replacing former interim head coach Kristi Alcorn. Alcorn took over mid-last season to replace Pat Cocklin. While they had some heartening pre-season success, with a successful training camp and a 8-0 win in a pre-season matchup against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, we’ll see how this new Brampton Thunder looks against a star-studded Les Canadiennes. Aside from Caroline Ouellette, last season’s third top scorer in the league, and former Rookie of the Year Ann-Sophie Bettez, Les Canadiennes added the much heralded Marie-Philip Poulin, Scourge of the US Olympic Gold Dreams, among others. If you need to brush up on the new Les Habs roster, check out Habs Eyes On the Prize’s coverage.

The Boston Blades will take on the Toronto Furies on Saturday, October 17th at 6:30 PM CT / 7:30 PM ET in the Mastercard Center, and again on Sunday, October 18th at 12:30 PM CT / 1:30 PM ET.

There’s been a lot of talk about what players the Blades have lost to the NWHL, but the team Krista Patronick has assembled is still going to be an interesting one to watch. The roster has a lot of forwards, with 18 of 25 players being natural forwards. The thin blue line is going to be bolstered by the returning presence of Dru Burns and Tara Watchorn, but Patronick expects that some of those forwards will end up helping out as defenders as well. The Furies, who finished out last season fourth in the league, has also lost some key players, especially on defense. Toronto struggled last year offensively, especially on special teams, where they finished out league last on both the PK and the PP. Things at the start of the season might be even rougher– top forwards Jenelle Kohanchuk and Julie Allen are out with injury right now. While the Furies picked up several new forwards in the draft, the stand out is probably Emily Fulton, formerly of Cornell, where she put up 48 points in 32 games last season.

The Calgary Inferno will play their season opener October 24th, at home.

Streaming

The CWHL will have a record high 32 games streamed this season, and all games will be filmed in HD. A regular season pass is $19.95 CAD, and can be purchased on the CWHL’s streaming site.

As in the past, all previously aired games will be available in the archive to watch for free. Additionally, all Calgary home games that are not streamed will have an audio-only stream available on the streaming site as well.

This weekend’s streaming games are:

  • Boston Blades @ Toronto Furies, Saturday, October 17th at 4:30 PM CT / 5:30 PM ET
  • Brampton Thunder @ Les Canadiennes, Sunday, October 18th, at 12:30 PM CT / 1:30 PM ET

Weekly News: CWHL to kick off season, Hilary Knight in documentary

  • The CWHL kicks off their season this weekend with two bouts on Saturday, October 17th. We’ll have a preview closer to, but look forward to Brampton facing the new Les Canadiennes, and the Boston Blades at the Toronto Furies.
  • New season, newly re-launched streaming! This year the CWHL will be streaming 32 of their regular season games, all in HD! The regular season pass costs $19.95 CAD. Check out the shiny new streaming page at cwhllive.com, where you can order a pass for this season, or watch previous season’s archived games.
  • The CWHL also has partnered with CWHLDaily on Tumblr to make them the official CWHL tumblr. Give that a follow if you’re on Tumblr.
  • Robyn Flynn of Habs Eye on the Prize has been busy at work writing up profiles of Les Habs players– check out her profile on Katia Clement-Heydra, their second-round draft pick. And then go check out all of her profiles. 🙂
  • Hilary Knight will be the feature of an upcoming espnW film, Knighter, which will debut on Thursday October 15th on espnW.com. The film is the fifth and final part of the What Makes Us series of documentary shorts, directed by the Mundo Sisters. Previous films in the series focused on Sydney Lerous, Megan Rapinoe, Veronica Boquete, and Carissa Moore.
  • In case you missed it, Dani Rylan, commissioner of the NWHL and GM of the Riveters, was featured in a Players Tribune article called So We Started A Hockey League. The article is, of course, about how she ended up starting the NWHL. It’s a really interesting look into how the sausage gets made, so to speak, although it unfortunately doesn’t get into Rylan’s history with the CWHL. (While that’s not really the topic of the article, it is a story I’m burning to hear.)
  • Greg Wyshnski of Puck Daddy, who recently committed to having regular NWHL coverage, wrote about the new league. It’s a bit of a 101 type article, as might be expected as it was written for the mainly men’s hockey content Puck Daddy, but it has some interesting tidbits.

Jessica Koizumi, Jamie Leonoff, Connecticut Whale Make History

Jessica Koizumi, forward for the Connecticut Whale, made history this weekend by scoring the first official goal in Whale history, and in NWHL history, during a 4-1 win over the New York Riveters. Kelly Babstock, Shiann Darkangelo and Kelli Stack also added tallies for the Whale, while Brooke Ammerman enters the record books as the first goal scorer for the New York Riveters. Jaimie Leonoff stopped 35 of 36 shots to lead the Whale to their first ever victory, while Nana Fujimoto of the Riveters stopped 25 of 29.

Koizumi opened the scoring with a beautiful snappy wrister 2:28 into the game, but after that the period descended into a quick trade off of penalties, each team racking up three minors as the Whale took the lead into the second period.

Ammerman tied the game at one four minutes into the second period, but after that, it was all Whale as Stack, Darkangelo and Babstock scored their own record goals to make it 4-1 by the time the final whistle blew.

The Riveters played well, end-stopped by Team Japan star Nana Fujimoto in-goal, but the Whale’s talented group of forwards overwhelmed the defence, and at times left Fujimoto stranded and helpless, despite the Riveters outshooting the Whale 36-29.

The Whale take the ice again next Sunday against the Buffalo Beauts, and you can stream the game live with the NWHL’s Cross Ice Pass.

 

My Three Stars of the Game

  1. Jessica Koizumi (Whale)

Koizumi impressed on the Blades, and looks like she’s going to continue to do so in the NWHL, scoring the opening goal, and looking dangerous for much of the game on a line with Olympian Kelli Stack.

  1. Jaimie Leonoff (Whale)

On paper, Fujimoto seems to be the better goalie, with more international experience, and at 5’4, has a much more difficult job. In her most recent outing with Team Japan at the IIHF World Championships, she recorded 128 saves and a save percentage of .937, in addition to being selected as Goaltender of the Tournament. But on this occasion, occasionally patchy defence on the part of the Riveters, and facing shots from players like Kelli Stack (1G, 2A), meant that Leonoff earned the victory, finishing with 35 saves and official first star honours from the league.

  1. Kelli Stack (Whale)

Two time silver medalist Kelli Stack scored the game winning goal and added two primary assists to the scoresheet on Sunday night. At times it felt like she was all over the ice, and Fujimoto and the Riveters defence definitely struggled to contain her for much of the game. She’s my pick to watch for the rest of the season.