By Mike Murphy
Tonight in St. Paul the Minnesota Whitecaps hosted the Metropolitan Riveters for an up-tempo, edge-of-your-seat game in a packed TRIA Rink. The Riveters and Whitecaps battled their way into the first shootout of the 2019-20 NWHL regular season after some intense back-and-forth action during regulation and overtime. A silky smooth move by Rivs’ rookie Tatiana Shatalova and some clutch goaltending by Sam Walther guided the visiting team to a 3-2 shootout win.
Both teams came out flying in the first period. A big shift from Riveters captain Madison Packer earned the visiting team a power play. On the ensuing power play, Kate Leary scored the first goal of the game from Packer and Cailey Hutchison. Whitecaps’ rookie Meghan Lorence looked to tie it up on a breakaway opportunity, but Walther closed the door on her to preserve the Riveters’ 1-0 lead.
Allie Thunstrom’s speed caused problems for the Riveters throughout the game and at the 6:47 mark of the second period Hutchison was called for tripping on a near-breakaway for the All-Star winger. The Whitecaps moved the puck well on the following power play to set up Thunstrom, who shanked her one-timer wide of the net, off the end boards, and right to Audra Richards. Richards, a former Riveter, buried the rebound to give Minnesota a power play goal of their own to tie the game at 1-1.
Before the period was over, the Riveters’ special teams answered back after Sydney Baldwin was sent to the box for bodychecking. Colleen Murphy sent the puck to Leary who attempted to set up Tatiana Shatalova for what would have been her first career NWHL goal, but Leary’s pass deflected off the leg of a Whitecaps penalty killer and went through Amanda Leveille. It was Leary’s second goal of the game and seventh of the season.
Minnesota tied the game up at the 14:45 mark of the third period when Thunstrom turned on the jets and flew around the Rivs’ defense before stashing the puck between Walther’s pads. After regulation, the shots were 38 to 23 in favor of the Whitecaps. Minnesota added four more shots in overtime, but Walther stopped them all and Leveille blanked the Riveters’ two chances.
Shatalova stole the show in the shootout with her unforgettable goal and Walther took care of the rest to give the Riveters their second consecutive win in Minnesota against the Whitecaps and a 2-1 edge in the season series. Walther, who made 40 saves, not including those she made in the shootout, was the first star of the game. After tonight’s win the Riveters are now just two points shy of tying the Whitecaps for third place in the regular season standings.
The Whitecaps and Riveters play again tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 p.m. ET (1:00 p.m. CT). Tickets for that game and all Whitecaps home games are available at whitecaps.nwhl.zone/tickets. Fans can watch the action streaming live and free on the NWHL on Twitch on twitch.tv/nwhl2.
Photo Credit: Collin Nawrocki