By Dan Rice
During her first three seasons in the NWHL, defender Rebecca Morse saw action in 29 games for the Metropolitan Riveters, often going long stretches between appearances in the lineup. She was a good soldier for the coaching staff, busting her tail twice a week at practice and sometimes even filling in as a forward. This season, Morse has been a staple in the Riveters’ lineup and recently appeared in her first NWHL All-Star game. She has played in all 19 of the Riveters’ games and is having a career year in point production.
Morse leads all Metro defenders in scoring with nine points – four goals and five assists – and leads the blue line in shots on goal (33). She’s been flourishing under the new Riveters coaching staff in her featured role on the defense and the ice time that comes with it.
“It’s definitely been an adjustment, but a good one,” Morse said. “There’s a lot of focus on recovering after that first game of the weekend, getting a good night’s sleep so I can be recharged for the next day.”
To have all her hard work pay off must be extremely satisfying for the 27-year-old Westfield, NJ native. Morse was one of the three veterans who returned to the team before the puck was dropped on the 2019-20 season. A popular player among both teammates and fans, she was a natural choice to be one of the team’s captains.
“It’s definitely a different type of role, but it’s been very rewarding,” Morse shared. “Going through those trials and tribulations over the past three seasons, it’s nice to have a bigger role on the team. All of it has paid off.
“I was able to focus on being a good teammate, supporting the team and working as hard as I could in case I was called upon,” she continued. “I have definitely embraced this opportunity, and I love this group that we have so it means even more. I think we have really good people in our room and great hockey players. I’m having so much fun this season.”
Before the All-Star break, the Riveters signed forward Kelly Nash and defender and former captain Ashley ‘Stretch’ Johnston for the remainder of the season. Both bring a boatload of experience to the team with them, and both were teammates of Morse when the Riveters won their only Isobel Cup in 2018.
“It’s interesting because it sort of seems like they’re the rookies again, but they’re not,” Morse said with a grin. “They have that foundation of having played in this league for multiple seasons. Stretch, being an original Riveter, and being our leader, she still fills that role in some way. I learned so much from playing with her and I try to carry that with me as one of this team’s alternate captains. She’s still hustling and making that long trek to get to New Jersey and we really appreciate it. She and Nash have really helped us out.”
Morse also revealed that one of the signings has been in the works for a while, “Some of us did a lot of convincing to get Kelly back on the Rivs,” added Morse. “I’m glad they’re both here.”
Here is a Riveters team that has earned points in seven of its last 10 games to move into third place in the standings. After a slow start, the Rivs have found their way. They are becoming a team that could be a force to be reckoned with once the playoffs begin in March.
“We’re really focusing on getting better each and every time we step on the ice,” Morse said. “We want to peak at the right time and starting the New Year off (with three wins in four games) was really good for our group.”
Morse was a standout at the 2020 NWHL All-Star Weekend. She finished with the second fastest shot in the Slalom Hardest Shot event with a 73 MPH bomb and picked up two assists in the All-Star Game on Feb. 9. She helped Team Dempsey win the All-Star game just like she has helped the Riveters turn things around this season.
“We have so much fun playing and that’s really a key for us, in addition to consistency,” Morse observed. “Another thing we’ve been great at is being a resilient team, being able to bounce back. Not only from the first to the second game of the weekend, but also from shift to shift. That’s something we’re starting to hone in on – having a positive attitude even when things aren’t going our way. Come back and do it better the next time around.”
In addition to now being a proud All-Star, Morse is also a proud New Jersey native who is stoked to see that the stands have been filling up for the Riveters’ home games. After playing the past three seasons in Newark at the Barnabas Health Hockey House, the Riveters found a new home at ProSkate in Monmouth Junction.
“It’s nice to be in my home state and see so many familiar faces … Those people are making the trek here, which is a bit longer for some.” Morse said. “That loyalty that they have to the Riveters means a lot to us. It doesn’t matter where we are, we are going to try to stick to what this organization has been building over the past few years.”
Morse and the Riveters will be back on the ice at ProSkate this Saturday for the Riveters Fight Cancer Night at 7:30 p.m. ET against the Beauts. They will play again at 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 16. Four of the Rivs’ last five games are against the Beauts on home ice, so Saturday’s game holds extra significance with the postseason just around the corner.
Tickets for all Riveters home games are available at riveters.nwhl.zone/tickets. All Riveters games can also be watched streaming live and free on the NWHL on Twitch.
Photo Credits: Ashley Intile, Michelle Jay