By Dan Rice
After a tough 4-2 loss at home to the Boston Pride on opening weekend the Metropolitan Riveters are packing their bags and heading to Minnesota for a two-game set this weekend against the defending Isobel Cup champion Whitecaps. Expect to see at least one lineup change from the Rivs for games 2 & 3 of the season as the team is expecting forward Kate Leary to make her NWHL debut.
“There will be one change definitely because we have forward Kate Leary flying in Thursday and joining us for practice, she’s staying with us all weekend,” head coach Ivo Mocek said following Monday night’s practice. “She will be added to the lineup but I’m not sure where yet; I have a couple of options in my head.”
The Riveters will likely be without defender Leila Kilduff who left the game against Boston early in the third period and did not practice Monday night with a lower-body injury.
Despite surrendering 39 shots on goal against the Pride Mocek was pleased with how his defense played in their first true test as a unit. “I would say all five players did a really good job most of the time. That’s a good thing to have, a good thing to know, that you can pair them with anyone,” Mocek said. “Obviously some are a little bit more offensive-minded and some of them are not, which is exactly what you want. That’s why we have Nicole (Arnold) and (Colleen) Murphy together, that’s a good pair. They can move well, skate well, move the puck quickly and that’s what you need.”
Murphy and Arnold were key cogs of the Rivs’ penalty kill that went 6-for-6 against the high-powered Pride power play and together with captain Madison Packer they did a phenomenal job killing off a good chunk of a 2:00 5-on-3 against. That will help in the confidence department as they face a tough challenge in the State of Hockey on Saturday and Sunday.
“It’ll be a good test, just like last weekend was a test,” Packer said after a fast-paced practice on Monday night. “Minnesota, like Boston, has a handful of returning players and that’s a bit of an advantage but every year is a new year and a new team. The Whitecaps are going to be fast and skilled. We have to bear down, build on last weekend, and probably play a little bit better.”
Packer knows the Riveters will be viewed as underdogs against the reigning champs, but also knows that predictions are just predictions and nothing more. “I’ve been in this seat before. You read the preseason predictions and what people think (of you). It’s because we’re not a well-known group that we’re a little bit underestimated and maybe that’s a good place to be with such a young team,” said the fifth year NWHLer. “I think last weekend we were at 50 percent of our capability and we have a long way to go because most players haven’t played in that environment before right?”
“I’m learning about the group that I’m playing with and I definitely have to step it up from how I played last weekend,” added Packer who netted her first goal of the season in last weekend’s loss.
This early-season trip could be very beneficial to a group that hasn’t really spent too much time together away from the rink. “We’ll watch some video of our game against Boston, and we’ll watch some video of the Whitecaps from preseason,” said Mocek who already has watched replays of those games in preparation.
“It’s our first road trip, Minnesota is the Cup champion so it’s a tough weekend, but for us, it’s a good test to see where we stand. We know we can play with Boston, now we’ll see how we match up with Minnesota,” added Mocek. “It’ll be a good opportunity for the players to bond, spend some time together, and we have a couple of team dinners planned.”
Photo Credit: Ashley Intile