(Photo: Mike Hetzel)
The NWHL's Boston Pride maintained their unbeaten record and are now 19-0 on the season after a win over the Metropolitan Riveters on Monday afternoon. While the Pride haven't yet locked in the #1 ranking for the season, they've been absolutely dominant, but the second-place Minnesota Whitecaps aren't doing too bad, either. The Whitecaps snagged a pair of wins over the weekend and are now 12-4-2 on the season, including their current four-game winning streak.
Here are the current NWHL standings:
- Boston Pride (19-0-0), 38 points
- Minnesota Whitecaps (12-4-2), 26 points
- Metropolitan Riveters (7-9-1), 15 points
- Buffalo Beauts (6-11-1), 13 points
- Connecticut Whale (1-15-2), 4 points
Minnesota vs. Connecticut
While Connecticut didn't start off Saturday's game poorly, the first period just didn't go their way. Amanda Leveille was strong in goal for the Whitecaps, and it made the difference. In addition, Minnesota's potent offense capitalized on a few giveaways and open ice, and found themselves up by three goals after twenty minutes of play.
Just over two minutes into the game, Allie Thunstrom pounced on a loose puck in front of the net. Brooke Wolejko was tight against the post at the other side, and though she tried to get over in time, Thunstrom was able to tap it in.
Later in the period, Amanda Boulier made it 2-0. Boulier kept the puck in at the blueline, bounced it across the ice to Jonna Curtis and skated to the front of the net. There, she was able to regain the puck and put it top shelf over Wolejko.
Minnesota was able to extend their reach late in the period, when Curtis tappe the puck in from the slot area. Despite being narrowly outshot 15-9 in the opening twenty minutes, the Whitecaps carried a 3-0 lead into the second period.
It didn't take long for Minnesota to continue their energy in the second period. Boulier tallied her second of the game just over three minutes in to make it 4-0. Connecticut had several chances to get it out of the zone and were unable to do so; Boulier eventually picked up a pass to Wolejko's left and was able to slam it home.
Although the Whale were able to block many shots as the period went on, Minnesota took a 5-0 lead before the second period was over. Thunstrom scored her second of the game, jamming home a loose puck amid a scramble in front of the net.
Connecticut finally got on the board with less than a minute to play in the period, as Emma Vlasic put the puck into the top corner behind Leveille's right shoulder. Despite the late tally, it was still an uphill battle for the Whale, who were down 5-1 entering the third period.
Meghan Pezon added a goal in the final frame, helping to push the Whitecaps to the 6-1 victory.
Sunday's game weighed much more heavily in Minnesota's favor. They went up just 1:44 into the game on a goal from Haylea Schmid; as the Whitecaps cycled the puck through the zone, Schmid capitalized on a rebound off a Meghan Lorence shot in front of the net.
Schmid's goal was the first of seven for the Whitecaps, who outshot the Whale 57-34 over the course of sixty minutes. Their dominance continued on the power play later in the first period, when Jonna Curtis scored on the doorstep off a feed from Nicole Schammel.
Intermission should've given the Whale a chance to settle things down and get themselves together, but the second period didn't start off any better for Connecticut. After Meaghan Pezon scored just 19 seconds into the period, Allie Thunstrom made it a four-goal game a few minutes later, and the Whitecaps never looked back.
Thunstrom would add another goal, this on the power play, in the third period; Schammel and Lauren Barnes also scored en route to a 7-0 win for the Whitecaps. Goaltender Amanda Leveille recorded her third shutout of the season, a new career-high for the fourth-year NWHLer. She now has five career shutouts, all of which have come with Minnesota.
With her goals this weekend, Allie Thunstrom is now the leading goalscorer in the league, with 16 goals. Boston's McKenna Brand and Buffalo's Taylor Accursi each have 13 goals. Minnesota's Amanda Boulier is second in the league in points, with 18.
Boston vs. Metropolitan
The Metropolitan Riveters came close to giving the Boston Pride a run for their money in Monday's afternoon tilt, but two goals in the final 11 minutes of play kept the Pride undefeated (now 19-0) in a 5-3 victory.
In the end, the Riveters were lucky it was only a two-goal game; they were outshot 41-17, recorded just three shots in the opening twenty minutes of play, and could've been dominated much worse on the scoreboard by the best team in the NWHL.
Lexi Bender opened the scoring for Boston midway through the first period. Just a few minutes after a rough power play for the Riveters, the Pride controlled play. Bender skated quickly into the slot, got the puck and backhanded it in.
Tori Sullivan doubled her team's lead later in the opening frame on a top-shelf tally with Sam Walther flying down to the ice, but Kate Leary put the Riveters on the board with just 31 seconds to play in the period, giving them a critical boost heading into intermission. Madison Packer and Kendall Cornine were critical on the play with a couple of passes to get the puck onto Leary's stick; Leary got Victoria Hanson just out of position enough to give herself an open net.
The break in play gave the Riveters a chance to compose themselves, and it worked. Just 2:47 into the second period, Brooke Avery tied the game, firing a shot from near the faceoff dot to the right of Hanson. Her goal was a necessary spark for the team; despite being outshot 12-6 in the middle frame, the Riveters were able to contain the Pride and go into the third period still tied at two.
Things got more interesting in the third period. Less than five minutes in, McKenna Brand scored to regain the lead for the Pride, putting the puck in through the five-hole on a rebound in front of the net. However, just over two minutes later, rookie Tatiana Shatalova – the youngest player in the league – scored an equalizer for the Riveters on a top-shelf tally after a great individual effort.
The teams stayed gridlocked until there were about 11 minutes remaining in regulation. That's when Mallory Souliotis put the Pride up once again, and this time, they held on. The Riveters were unable to clear the zone, and the Pride capitalized on the pressure. Souliotis sent the puck flying toward the net, and it appeared to be tipped in front and in.
Christina Putigna added an insurance goal on the power play with 2:28 remaining to seal the 5-3 win. Hanson recorded 14 saves, while Walther made 36 saves in the loss.
News & Notes
Late last week, the Whale signed both Brinna Dochniak and Janine Weber to standard player contracts for the remainder of the season. On Monday, the Riveters signed Brown captain and defender Abby Niewchas to a PTO. She made her NWHL debut in Monday's loss to the Pride.
This coming weekend will see four of the five NWHL teams in action. The Whale and Riveters square off (Saturday, 6:30 PM Eastern; Sunday, 4:30 PM Eastern), while the Pride and Whitecaps face each other in what should be a great matchup between the league's top teams (Saturday, 6:00 PM Central; Sunday, 1:00PM Central).
This coming weekend is the final NWHL action before the league's All-Star break, which is being held in Boston on February 8-9. Regular league action returns the weekend of February 15.