Examining the Riveters’ Celeste Brown’s Role as Playmaker

Through thirteen games this season, Montana native forward Celeste Brown has yet to score a goal for the New York Riveters. Brown, a standout during her time at the RIT with the Tigers, never showed a true flair for goal scoring at the collegiate level. In 139 games with RIT, Brown scored 42 goals, including 10 goals in 39 games as her team’s captain her senior year.

Now with the NWHL, Brown’s lack of goal scoring can be explained by the fact that she has registered a shockingly low fourteen shots this season per NWHL.co.

Why so few shots? Brown is deployed by Chad Wiseman in a role that is meant to best utilize her strengths as a defensive forward with a flair for passing the puck. In the Riveters’ recent shootout loss to the Buffalo Beauts that dropped them into fourth place, Brown picked up a crucial primary assist on Morgan Fritz-Ward’s go-ahead goal in the second period. Fritz-Ward’s goal got the Riveters into full gear for what was likely their best period of the season. Without Brown’s vision and hard work, the tide could have turned the other way.

Of course Brown’s unselfish play with the puck is not without its flaws. As all hockey fans know, almost every shot that goes on net is worth taking. Brown has had several golden chances this season on breakaways and odd-man rushes where she has failed to deliver. This might be discouraging her from firing rubber on the net and default to more of a “pass first” mentality.

Her college statistics don’t suggest that she was much of a playmaker – Brown had more goals than assists, but during her time with the Riveters her passing, particularly in the transition game which tends to be a weakness of New York, has stood out as an unexpected strength. Brown’s decisions with the puck rarely materialize in assists (she has just three on the season), but they do help the Riveters move the puck up the ice and get the puck in the offensive zone. She is, simply put, a workhorse hockey player filling a very difficult role.

Statistics, from @classlicity and charted by @SeanTierneyTSS, accurate through 1/3/2015.

How Brown compares to the rest of the Riveters in generating shots is only fully appreciated with the context of her role and deployment as a defensive forward that spends significant portions of every game battling the best players on the opposing team.

The 23-year-old was the second player signed by the Riveters before their inaugural season, just after All-Star Janine Weber, so it goes without saying that she embodied a lot of the qualities that general manager Dani Rylan wanted to see on the ice. There will never be questions about her work ethic, her heart, or her play away from the puck. Brown is tied for the team lead in minor penalties – in large part due to her role as the team’s primary defensive forward.

When the Riveters play the Pride, her battles with Hilary Knight,  who has almost half a foot on Brown, have been epic. In those feverish defensive efforts, the battles in front of the net and the scrums along the boards, one can observe the essence of what Celeste Brown brings to the Riveters. She is a heart and soul player that doesn’t back down from any challenge and will do what she must to give her team a chance to win a hockey game.

The amount of time Brown spends emptying her gas tank by chasing the puck in the Riveters’ defensive zone both doesn’t present her with an ideal environment to generate shots and score goals. But her game has been noticeably improving as the season marches on. This has materialized in her seeing more of the puck in recent games and her dramatically improved discipline in regards to avoiding penalties. In her last seven games, Brown has taken just two minor penalties.

Eventually, Celeste Brown will cash in with her first NWHL goal because, frankly, she’s just too good of a player to not find the back of the net. The Riveters’ Jekyll and Hyde offense has scored ten goals over the last four games, including four goals in the second period of Sunday’s game to help chase Kimberly Sass from the game.

Brown created two standout scoring chances in that second period thanks to her cunning approach to the game, but she remains one of many Riveters who undoubtedly has more she can contribute to the team’s offense. Brown’s true value might lie in being a playmaker, but the Riveters need goals wherever they can find them, even from a defensive-minded center.

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