Tonight the final game of the NWHL season was played in Stamford, Connecticut with the Connecticut Whale hosting the New York Riveters. The Riveters were hoping to wrap up their disappointing regular season by defeating the only team in the league that has elluded them.
Despite taking a tidal wave of penalties, the Whale held on to win the game and give their fans a special memory on Fan Appreciation day at Chelsea Piers.
The two goalies who were involved in the first trade in league history, and the only trade of the season, stepped into their respective creases against their former teams for the second time tonight. Chelsea Laden had her best start of the season against her former teammates, turning aside 21 shots in a losing effort. Shenae Lundberg was something special for the Whale, especially in the second period. Lundberg stopped 25 shots and didn’t surrender an even strength goal all night.
The win was Lundberg’s second since joining the Whale, both of which have come against her former team. For Lundberg, playing against her former team and so many of her friends was a challenge, but one that she welcomed.
“I think everyone is trying to get ready for the playoffs,” Lundberg reflected after the game. “This is a good way to transition, a 4-2 win. I’d love to have a 4-0 win, but getting back into it I did alright.”
Danielle Ward of the Whale scored the first goal of the game, her fifth on the season, just after a Connecticut power play expired. Ward’s goal, assisted by Jordan Brickner after a battle in the slot was won by the Whale.
Seven minor penalties were called in the first, including three to Kelly Babstock alone. On the last penalty of the first, a slashing call to Alyssa Wohlfeiler the Riveters tied the game up with just seven seconds left before intermission.
The Riveters’ Bray Ketchum buried a power play goal to hit the ten goal mark on the season and send her teammates to the locker room smiling before the start of the second period. Ketchum’s goal helped her finish the season as the Riveters’ leading goal scorer as well as having a tie for the team lead in points with Brooke Ammerman. The Ketchum and Ammerman duo seems to be clicking and getting into a groove just in time for the playoffs.
The second period belonged to the Riveters in shots, but the Whale found two straight goals about six and a half minutes apart from Kelli Babstock and Shiann Darkangelo. On Babstock’s go-ahead-goal there was clear contact with Laden in her crease, but it was caused by Riveters’ defender Sydney Kidd who pushed Kelli Stack into her own goaltender. Laden wasn’t happy about the whistle not being blown, but the gaffe by her own defender, who had a particularly rough game, was a good non-call by the referee.
#NWHL Goal by Kelly Babstock (@kelly_babstock) @CTWhale_NWHL up 3-1. pic.twitter.com/BSi4lOqTTZ
— NWHL Gifs (@nwhlgifs) February 29, 2016
Before the close of the second period the Riveters would again find a late goal on their power play, this time by defender Kiira Dosdall who scored her first goal of the season. Dosdall has been running the Riveters’ power play for several games and she scored after receiving a pass from Ammerman on her second primary assist of the night. Dosdall’s goal came with just over two and a half minutes remaining in the second period.
The only goal of the third came from the stick of Micaela Long when she put the puck into the Riveters’ empty net with less than a minute left in regulation. Before Long sealed the deal, the Whale spent most of the third period making life difficult for themselves with four straight minor penalties. The Riveters came close to finding the tying goal on the power play, but instead of the goal horn heard only the metal “ding” of two posts from blueliners Dosdall and Gabie Figueroa.
Thanks to some hard work around the Riveters’ net and some exceptional penalty killing and goaltending, the Connecticut Whale were able to end their regular season on a high note after losing their last two games. The Riveters played well, but were undone by missed chances including two fanned shots from Ketchum and Janine Weber right in front of the net and the two posts late in the third period.
Although a league with just four teams will really have nothing but rivalries, there is little doubt that these two teams clearly don’t get along on the ice. Perhaps it’s the close proximity of the franchises or perhaps it’s something else, but the Whale and the Riveters play tough, physical hockey against one another. It would make for a very entertaining and penalty-filled Isobel Cup Final.
The Riveters will have to try to hold their heads up high after a solid effort and hope that alternate captain and All-Star forward Morgan Fritz-Ward can return to the lineup on Friday. Fritz-Ward was held out of the lineup with a suspected upper body injury that she suffered in last week’s game.
The Whale will now set their sights on the Buffalo Beauts and hope to play a much cleaner game with more puck possession after a surprisingly tough battle against to close out their season.
Quotes provided by Kate Cimini, @k_cimini