Through two days of the 2021 NWHL season, the Metropolitan Riveters and Minnesota Whitecaps remain undefeated, while the Buffalo Beauts and Toronto Six are still searching for their first win. Sunday's games featured a rally back from a 5-1 deficit, two penalty-filled games, and back-and-forth action.
Here are the NWHL standings after each team has played two games. There are no games on Monday; action returns Tuesday.
Metropolitan (2-0), 4 points
Minnesota (2-0), 4 points
Boston (1-1), 2 points
Connecticut (1-1), 2 points
Toronto (0-1-1), 1 point
Buffalo (0-1-1), 1 point
Minnesota Whitecaps vs. Toronto Six
"One shift at a time, one period at a time."
That's how Minnesota Whitecaps defender Winny Brodt Brown described Sunday's intense battle between the Whitecaps and the Toronto Six, which saw Minnesota battle back from a 5-1 deficit to capture a 6-5 victory in the shootout following a penalty-filled affair.
Lindsay Eastwood scored the first goal in Toronto's franchise history, notching a power-play goal from just inside the faceoff circle to the right of netminder Amanda Leveille. Mikyla Grant-Mentis doubled their lead with a shot from in the slot a short time later, while the teams were playing 4-on-4.
After a no-goal call for Minnesota, Toronto went up 3-0 on Breanne Wilson-Bennett's first goal of the afternoon. After allowing three goals on five shots, Leveille was briefly pulled for the last few minutes of the opening frame. Allie Morse came in to relieve her, but Leveille returned for the second period.
"Leveille is obviously unbelievable," said assistant coach Laura Slominski. "She just got a little nicked up for a moment so just needed to take a break to get it checked out... She showed a lot of grit today just like our whole team has."
Sydney Baldwin, a late addition to the Whitecaps' roster, got her team on the board near the end of the first period, but Toronto would score the next two goals (Wilson-Bennett, Emily Fluke).
A four-goal lead, however, wasn't safe against the offensively-minded Minnesota squad. The Whitecaps were quick to respond, as Haylea Schmid and Haley Mack both scored in under a minute to make it a 5-3 game heading into the third period.
Audra Richards and Meaghan Pezon tied the game in the final frame, with Pezon's tally coming on a 5-on-3. After a fruitless overtime, the teams headed to a shootout. Haley Mack had the game-winning shot.
"We have to look after the details. We scored five goals. Our power play is good, our offense is good. We're moving the puck well. Just a few unfortunate turnovers," said Toronto head Coach Digit Murphy.
Connecticut Whale vs. Metropolitan Riveters
Both coming off Saturday victories, the Connecticut Whale and Metropolitan Riveters met in the middle game of Sunday's tripleheader, with Metro narrowly coming out on top 4-3.
The Riveters wasted little time, scoring two goals in just eight seconds early in the first period. Mallory Rushton opened the scoring on a deflection, as Leila Kilduff notched her third point of the weekend on an assist. Cailey Hutchison doubled the lead quickly, beating netminder Brooke Wolejko top-shelf.
Connecticut, coming off their shootout win the night prior, worked quickly to get back into the game. Amanda Conway's shot from just outside the paint got past Tera Hofmann, and about seven minutes later, Katelynn Russ popped the puck in off of Hofmann's arm. Just like that, the game was tied.
Rebecca Russo regained the Riveters' lead on the power play in the opening minutes of the second period, but Kaycie Anderson once again tied the game with some great work on the doorstep later in the middle frame.
Rookie Theresa Knutson notched her first goal just five and a half minutes into the third period on a shot from the slot. That would stand up as the game-winning tally as the Riveters improved to 2-0 on the season, largely as a result of their ability to squash the Whale's offense in the dying minutes and keep them from pulling their netminder for an extra attacker.
"It's a character win. I think that was kind of the definition of Riveters hockey, being able to grind it out," said Riveters assistant coach Ashley Johnston, who noted the team's defensive depth, particularly on the penalty kill.
Hofmann had 33 saves in the win. Brooke Wolejko tended goal for the Whale for most of the game, although Abbie Ives did briefly come in while Wolejko had an equipment issue tended to. (Note: at time of writing, the scoresheet on the NWHL's website does not accurately reflect the goaltending stats for the Whale in this game.)
"Being able to rely on both of our goalies is really beneficial," said Connecticut assistant coach Jamie Goldsmith. "As everyone knows, goaltending is one of the most important positions in the game, if not the most important position in the game. They can steal you games when your team's not playing the best."
The Whale are now 1-1 on the season, but certainly look sharp early on, particularly for a team that's struggled over the last few years.
"We still seem to have a little bit of the Whale luck going our way right now, with pucks between Hofmann's legs, on the goal line, we're hitting posts instead of going down and in," said captain Shannon Doyle. "We are producing, which is amazing, getting those shots and chances. It'll come for us."
Boston Pride vs. Buffalo Beauts
The Buffalo Beauts couldn't get out of their own way and took penalty after penalty in their second game of the NWHL season, dropping a 5-1 decision to the Boston Pride.
The Pride got on the board first. Captain Jillian Dempsey opened the scoring from below the goal line, bouncing the puck off a Beauts player and into the net.
The Boston lead lasted only about four minutes, though, as Jordan Juron capitalized on a breakaway and put the puck up over Victoria Hanson's pad to tie the game at one. The Pride seemed to get some good zone time as the period went on, but overall, the opening frame was fairly even, with Buffalo outshooting Boston 10-9.
Carly Jackson made a few great saves, including one mindblowing stop to keep her team in it, but Boston managed to squeeze one more past her before the opening frame ended. McKenna Brand shot through two Beauts defenders and over Jackson's glove to give the Pride a narrow edge heading into intermission.
Early in the second period, Buffalo got themselves into some penalty trouble. With Iveta Klimášová and Dominique Kremer both in the box, the Pride capitalized first on the 5-on-3, then on the power play. Dempsey struck first, before rookie Sammy Davis notched her first career NWHL goal.
Taylor Wenczkowski added her first goal of the season late in the second period on a nifty backhand that went up and over Jackson. The Pride severely outworked the Beauts, particularly in the middle frame as they outshot Buffalo 20-5 and carried a 5-1 lead into the final period of the evening.
It was much of the same in the third period; quieter, scoreless and with fewer shots from both teams. The Beauts still couldn't stay out of the box and took three more minor penalties, and it was all they could do to crawl out of the game with a four-goal deficit.
"It was an overall strong team effort," said Dempsey. "Every line, every D pair, goaltending, won their individual battles."
Although the Beauts are still in search of their first win, there were some positives the team was able to take from Sunday's game.
"We generated more chances tonight, we were getting going on the rush, getting pucks going out of the zone, which gave us more chances going the other way," said Jordan Juron. At the other end of things, Marie-Jo Pelletier also noted the team's ability to get the puck out of their zone quicker, which gave them more offensive chances.
Boston captain Jillian Dempsey became the first player in league history to reach the 100-point mark in her NWHL career. Dempsey has played all six seasons with the Pride.
Theresa Knutson on her game-winning goal: "I looked up and saw no one in front of me besides the goalie, and I was like oh no... just take a deep breath. I was able to look and pick my corner."
Toronto Six head coach Digit Murphy on her team: "Our players have young legs, young heads. A little inexperienced, but they're going to get there."
Tuesday's games (all times Eastern):
5:30 PM - Minnesota Whitecaps vs. Metropolitan Riveters