The Metropolitan Riveters have gone through a complete rebrand due to a first of its kind partnership with the New Jersey Devils. However, it seems that it’s not only their off-ice product that is seeing major improvements. For the first time in franchise history they have opened the season with three wins in a row, matching the Franchises longest winning streak. Could this finally be their year to lift the Isobel Trophy?

The contrast between this year and previous years couldn’t be more evident. The previous two seasons the team went 0-3-0 to open the season, leaving fans very little to cheer for. Last season, around the time of the New Year, the team did start to string together some wins, and with the signing of Amanda Kessel they were able to climb out of the cellar and claim the second seed going into the playoffs.

However, their playoff struggles continued as they once again lost in the semi-finals, making them the only NWHL team yet to win a playoff game. During the playoffs they hold a record of 0-3-0 and have been outscored 17-6 across these games. So although they have come out of the starting blocks sprinting, fans are will want to see a dominating Rivs side back up their early success and come away with something to show for it come March 2018.

It is important to remember that all of this misery was with the New York Riveters, and this is now the Metropolitan Riveters, who are on fire, very similar to their NHL counterparts. They have yet to lose, and are looking very similar to last year’s Boston Pride. Here are three key points that I have highlighted that have helped this team shape themselves into a contender for the Isobel Trophy.

 

  1. Special Teams:

It has been said that NHL championships are won due to the special teams, and although this has been debated through the years, there is no doubt that having a slick, operational power play and power kill can make your route to success a whole lot easier. Over in the NWHL the same philosophy applies, and the Rivs have the special teams that could see them go all the way. They lead the league in power play goals, operating at a conversion rate of 21.7%, the only team currently above 20%. They sit second, closely behind the Beauts, on the power kill, but where they stand out here is the fact that they have already picked up 2 short-handed goals in their first 3 games. Scoring a shorty not only puts one up on the scoreboard for your team, but causes a complete swing of momentum which can, and has decided games. Harrison Browne scored a shorty to open the NWHL scoring for the season, while Gruschow picked up the second one in their second game of the year. The other teams know now, even if they have the woman advantage, any slip of concentration and the Rivs will pounce and take full advantage of the opportunity.

 

2. Katie Fitzgerald:

Fitzgerald has been a cornerstone that the team builds around ever since last year when she showed her skills and won the NWHL’s ‘Goalie of the Year.’ She continues to be a dominate force going into this season, showing no sign of slowing up and is putting up career high numbers. Across the three games she is averaging a 0.948 save percentage. With the 3 wins she has become the second NWHL goalie to notch up 10 wins, with a career record of 10-6-1 (Boston’s Brittany Ott being the first goalie to achieve this feat, having 22 wins total). When a goalie only concedes an average of 1.33 goals per game, that team is likely to win and that is exactly what is happening here.

 

3. Offensive Flow

So far no one has come close to challenging this team offensively. In their season opener the Rivs picked apart the Pride, who went 16-1-0  last year, making it look easy as they won 4-1. They then went on to dispatch of Buffalo and Connecticut in a similar manner, scoring an average of 5 goals a game. Three Rivs players share the honour of the NWHL top point’s scorer at the moment, with Alexa Gruschow, Miye D’Oench and Courtney Burke all on 6 points. Rebecca Russo is close behind with 5 points and leads the team in goals with 4 on the season. Russo is now only 10 goals behind the all-time franchise goal scoring leader, Janine Weber, who now plays for the Pride. This means that Russo is only a stone’s throw away from becoming the franchise’s all-time goal scoring leader herself.

There was plenty of worry about the skill gap that would be left behind with Kessel off on Olympic duties this year and the sophomore year slump from Bray Ketchum who had 10 goals in her first year but only managed two in her second and has yet to record any this year. However, such doubts have been well and truly dispelled as the rest of the team has picked up the slack and kept the scoreboard ticking over.

 

Overall, this new Rivs team, whether it is the new training facilities they now have access to, the fresh faces they have brought in, or if things are just finally clicking, are looking like the finished article. The test now is to see if they can carry this form through the season and into the playoffs. The first step of this, is of course, their game tomorrow, which if they win will see them extend their winning streak to a franchise record of 4 games in a row.