By Mike Murphy
This weekend, the Boston Pride will host the Metropolitan Riveters three weeks after the Pride spoiled the Riveters’ home opener on Oct. 5.
The Pride are coming off a statement weekend series sweep of the Whitecaps that put the league on notice; Boston is the new team to beat. Head coach Paul Mara’s team is officially on a roll with a spotless 5-0-0 record to start the season.
The Riveters, on the other hand, are coming off a bye week that followed a gritty overtime win in Minnesota on Oct. 13. The Rivs are not the same team that let a 2-1 lead slip away in the third period of their season opener. Since that loss, scoring winger Kate Leary joined the team and veteran defender Kiira Dosdall, one of the game’s most underrated players, is expected to make her season debut. More importantly, the Riveters have a newfound confidence in their goaltending.
The Battle in the Blue Paint
The Riveters are going to need a big weekend from Sam Walther to come away with a win.
The second-year NWHLer rebounded in a big way in the Rivs’ last game after being chased by the Whitecaps in a 9-2 rout on Oct. 12. Excluding her second appearance of the season, Walther has posted a .924 save percentage on the season, which includes a 36-save game against the Pride on Oct. 5. Thus far, she’s given her team every chance it needs to win while facing an average of 38.69 SA60 in three starts.
At the other end of the ice, rookie Lovisa Selander has been lights-out for the Pride. She was one of the two VEDA Players of the Week for her performance against the Whitecaps last weekend. Selander has wasted no time in establishing herself as an elite NWHL goaltender. Her .954 save percentage in five starts this year is in a class of its own.
Boston’s Relentless Attack
The Pride’s top line has been an absolute terror through the first five games of the season.
McKenna Brand leads the league with an impeccable +11 on-ice 5-on-5 goal differential and has already scored six goals. Captain Jillian Dempsey leads the league in points (3 G, 10 A) and has been Boston’s most productive player at even strength. Christina Putigna, the third member of that top line, has also been outstanding. She has points in each of her first five games in the NWHL and was named the first star of the game in Boston’s 5-2 victory on Oct. 20.
Coming into this weekend’s showdown, Boston’s offense has averaged 4.80 goals per-game (G/GP) and a league-leading 43.20 shots for per-60 minutes (SF60). The Pride’s offense looks both deep and balanced with a blue line that features playmakers like Kaleigh Fratkin and Mallory Souliotis. Boston scorched both the Beauts and the Whitecaps with stretch-passes out of their own zone to create rushes. The Riveters can’t afford to let Boston’s puck-moving defenders beat them in the transition game.
Metro’s One-Two Punch
It’s been just three games, but the Riveters appear to be packing more offensive firepower than many projected them to have before the season began.
The Riveters’ top line of Cailey Hutchison, Madison Packer, and Leary has the potential to be a goal-a-game trio. Since Leary joined, she’s picked up two primary points at even strength in two games and Packer is already leading the team in points with two goals and two assists in addition to a team-leading 14 shots. Hutchison, the top line’s center, is adapting to the pro game well and is averaging 3.0 SOG/GP. She picked up her first career point – an assist – against the Whitecaps on Oct. 12
The Riveters’ RIT line has also established itself as one of the most intriguing trios in the league. The chemistry shared between Kendall Cornine, Mallory Rushton, and Brooke Baker has resulted in Rushton setting up Cornine for three goals in three games, including two in the Riveters’ OT win over the Whitecaps on Oct. 13. The RIT line will have to be on top of their game if the Riveters want to spoil Boston’s undefeated record this weekend.
The Pride and Riveters will battle this weekend at Boston’s Warrior Ice Arena on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 27 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets for all games are available now at www.nwhl.zone/tickets and at the arena on the day of games.
Photo Credit: Ashley Intile, Kate Frese