By Mike Murphy
The Metropolitan Riveters entered the 2019-20 season with a new jersey, a new head coach, and a roster filled with question marks. The Riveters may have a record of 1-4-0, but there are signs that this team is significantly better than its record.
Metro’s October schedule was undoubtedly the most difficult in the league. They played the undefeated Boston Pride three times and traveled to Minnesota to split a weekend series against the reigning Isobel Cup champion Whitecaps It’s also important to note that the Rivs are the only team to hold a lead over the Pride thus far this season and that they’ve only played two games with their roster at full strength.
The RIT Line
Heading into the season, fans knew they could count on captain Madison Packer and Kate Leary to lead the offense this year and they have delivered; Packer leads the team with six points and Leary has five primary points in four GP. However, there were question marks about the team’s depth scoring before the puck dropped.
Enter the RIT line: rookies Kendall Cornine, Mallory Rushton, and Brooke Baker.
Cornine leads the Riveters with five goals in her first five games as a pro. She’s also the team’s most effective player on the faceoff dot with a 54.08 percent success rate on draws. Cornine might be getting all the attention, but Rushton has set up four of her five goals and Baker’s hustle and physicality have helped to create space for her linemates. This will be a trio to watch closely for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
Perhaps the biggest positive for the Riveters heading into November is that head coach Ivo Mocek knows he has starting goaltender he can rely on. Sam Walther has a .882 save percentage, but much like the Riveters’ record, that number doesn’t tell half the story.
Walther has faced an average of 45.30 shots against per-60 minutes (SA60), which is the highest SA60 in the league by a significant margin. In other words, she’s faced an avalanche of shots. Walther’s play under those conditions has been exceptional. She made at least 36 saves in four of her five starts and posted a .925 save percentage in the Riveters’ OT win over the Whitecaps – the first in franchise history – on Oct. 13 after being chased from her crease the day before.
The second-year NWHLer has exceeded everyone’s expectations with her play in October and has earned every bit of her nickname.
The Blue Line
The first five games of the 2019-20 season were rough the Riveters’ blueliners. At the break, the Riveters have the worst goal differential in the league (-15) and have bled shots and chances against. Metro is currently averaging 44.11 SA60, which is the worst in the league by a significant margin. Of course, the Riveters’ brutal schedule weighs heavily into that number.
Fortunately for Mocek, veteran Kiira Dosdall is back in the lineup after missing the first three games of the season and rookie defender Leila Kilduff returned to the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury. Dosdall should provide a calming influence in the defensive zone on the other side of the break. The Cornell alumna could also add another dimension to the Riveters’ on special teams; she’s tied for sixth all-time in league history in power play points.
The Riveters return to action with a busy weekend of travel beginning on Saturday, Nov. 30 with a road game in Boston against the Pride at 6:30 p.m. EST before a 4:10 p.m. EST meeting with the Connecticut Whale in Danbury on Dec. 1. Metro’s next home game is Saturday, Dec. 7 at 7:00 p.m. EST at ProSkate. Tickets for that game and all Riveters home games are available at riveters.nwhl.zone/tickets and all Riveters games can be watched streaming free on twitch.tv/nwhl and twitch.tv/nwhl2.
Photo Credits: Michelle Jay, Ashley Intile