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Beauts Defeat Riveters As Rivalry For Crown Grows

After two years of the Boston Pride dominating the NWHL’s regular season, the Metropolitan Riveters and Buffalo Beauts have taken over the role of top dogs and seen their rivalry escalate. Two straight meetings of the NWHL’s first and second seeds had the Beauts come out on top including Sunday afternoon at RWJ Barnabas Hockey House. The Beauts remain the only team to beat the Riveters this season, and they have it done it often recently.

The first period was largely Buffalo’s momentum-wise, as they picked up the only goal of the frame. Sarah Casorso launched a shot which ricocheted off Corinne Buie and past Katie Fitzgerald early in the game. The Riveters appeared unable to deal effectively with the Beauts forecheck and Fitzgerald had to make some key saves. The Beauts soon thought they had a 2-0 lead but a crease violation led to a no goal on the play.

When the second period began, Kristen Lewicki wasted almost no time scoring the eventual game winner. But the Riveters had woken up by then and were generating chances, stopping Beauts tries and evening out the game considerably. Eventually it paid off when Rebecca Russo, corralled the puck at the end of a shift in the Beauts zone and sent it across to Madison Packer who knocked it past Amanda Levielle. The Rivs would be unable to convert any other chances despite coming close often including multiple pipes being hit. Packer’s goal would be the last of the game, as both teams held each other off the score sheet. This included Casorso lying down across the net to block several Riveters shot s when Levielle was drawn forward in the scrum.

Despite the loss, the Riveters drew several positives from the contest.

“It’s one of the best hockey games we played in awhile,” Riveters Head Coach Chad Wiseman said. “It’s just one of those games you walked out of here knowing you absolutely deserved a better fate. I thought we controlled a majority of the game, controlled the offensive zone. I think we had them hemmed in when they were kinda holding on in that end of the second period, We wore them down. We played a great game. Deserved a better fate, that’s just sports. Sometimes you deserve to win a game and you don’t. Sometimes you don’t deserve to win and you do. You play like that, eight out of ten times you’re going to win.”

“They got the first one hit off of three of our players and then bounced off their shin before going in the net. That’s something that’s a part of hockey,” Riveters defender Kelsey Koelzer said. “I think that those are the bounces we definitely didn’t get today and I think we recognize how well we played. We had them on the ropes for a lot of the game. It was just a matter of not having those bounces go in and that’s how games go sometimes. I definitely think this effort was significantly better than the third period of the last game.”

It is possible had the Riveters been firing on all cylinders from puck drop in period one they might have gotten the equalizer or defined the momentum of the game themselves. Despite the first period, the rest of the game featured generally both teams playing very well. The Rivs did have a few minutes in the second when they had the Beauts on the ropes, but otherwise it was a very even game in the final two segments. This is not unexpected at this point in the season as the new look Beauts coalesced into a lethal team, and the Riveters remained steady building off of their core.

“Honestly I think it was just a bit of lull to start,” Koelzer said. “After the first ten minutes we had control of the game, hands down. We had them running around. We were using our speed. We were using our skill. We were playing disciplined hockey. I think it’s just a matter of doing that from the start. We definitely had a slow first ten minutes, but after that it was all Riveters hockey. It’s definitely keep in mind in the future, I think that happens with every team and so it’s something we’ll continue to work on in practice, and try to get better.”

Both teams had relatively stable lineups with most of their regulars available neither team had their full complement of usual starters. The Riveters were still without Miye D’Oench though she did skate in warm ups and looked to be recovering from her injury nicely. The Beauts on the other hand, did not have prolific scorer Maddie Elia. Even so the Riveters sent out different line combinations which resulted in the very successful Russo-Packer combination.

“I think we’re reacting well to adversity,” Riveters forward Alexa Gruschow said. “Whether it’s new players that we just signed, injuries, just change in lines. Things like that. We’re shifting in places that we need to. We’re being aware of who we’re with on the ice…No matter what kind of adversity is thrown at us. Go out there, work hard, talk to your linemates, pick each other up, and go all out.”

Each team’s offense came from a variety of sources. Buie, Colleen Murphy, Casorso, and Jess Jones had Buffalo’s four assists. Taylor Accursi led their team with five shots including on a breakaway, Lewicki had four, Buie, Hayley Scamurra, and Sarah Shureb had three apiece.

Courtney Burke also picked up an assist in addition to Russo on the one Metropolitan goal. Jenny Ryan led the Riveters with 9 shots on goal, Michelle Picard and Kelly Nash had four each, with Alexa Gruschow, Hillary Crowe, Packer, Bray Ketchum, and Kelsey Koelzer all having three shots each.

Defensively, Sarah Edney had four blocks for Buffalo, Jones had two, and a handful of others had one each. For the Riveters, Koelzer had three, while Ryan and Ashley Johnston had 2 each. A few others were spread throughout the team. Each team had numerous non-block disruptions of opposing shots too, but that is harder to quantify.

Wiseman outlined the numerous teams successes as coming from “controlling the offensive zone, our D were really aggressive, we had a good F3, we were coming back hard, we took care of our own zone for the most part, and got out pretty clean. I couldn’t be happier with today’s game other than the result.”

The two well matched teams both have explosive offenses that can finish, a rock solid defensive corps, veteran leadership, and excellent goaltending. What is clear is come the playoffs, it is very possible the Beauts and Riveters will meet for the Isobel Cup. In a one game final, anything can happen.

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