A captain at Quinnipiac, an NWHL All-Star and an alternate captain and essential forward for the New York Riveters, Morgan Fritz-Ward appears to be getting better with each passing game.
During her college years, Fritz-Ward was never a prolific scorer–scoring 42 points in 123 games–but she was a leader on and off the ice and embraced the importance of doing the little things right. There’s no doubt that that trait made the journey with her from Quinnipiac to Brooklyn.
After Sunday’s emotional win over the Beauts in the Riveters last home game of the season, Bray Ketchum spoke to what was different about the power play that has struggled all season long to make an impact, but came up with two huge goals against the Beauts.
“We moved the puck around really well today. With [Fritz-Ward] in front, she’s a force in front,” Ketchum reflected, “She gets the little pucks that we need. So hopefully that will help us out as we go into the playoffs.”
Fritz-Ward’s increased role on the power play comes in addition to her regular deployment as a penalty killer. Other than the Riveters’ goaltending depth being tested this season with injuries to Nana Fujimoto and Shenae Lundberg (before her trade to the Whale) the facet of New York’s game that has stood out as the clearest success is their league-best penalty killing. Fritz-Ward’s fire, intelligence and busy feet make her an invaluable skater in special teams play.
If the Riveters want to turn heads and prove doubters and analysts wrong, they are going to need their power play and penalty killing to get the job done in the first round of the Isobel Cup playoffs. One glance at the corsi percentages among the team’s skaters at even strength paints a clear picture about just how crucial it is for the Riveters to get pressure and production when they have an extra attacker on the ice.
For Fritz-Ward to be an alternate captain at just 22 says a great deal about what her teammates and her coaching staff think of her and what she brings.
The Iowa native led the Quinnipiac Bobcats to the 2015 NCAA Women’s Hockey Championship Quarterfinals and with the energy that she brings in New York, it’s understandable why she has a letter on her chest. She rarely takes penalties, she doesn’t take shifts off, and she is tireless in her own zone–a trait that has come to be crucial for the Riveters this season because of their ongoing struggle to win the possession battle.
Fritz-Ward is a high-energy person that greets every member of the media and every fan waiting in line for her autograph with a big smile. Although her social media presence isn’t quite on the level of Jenny Scrivens or fellow alternate captain Madison Packer, Fritz-Ward was adored and embraced by Riveters fans who cheered on their chosen team at their home rink in Brooklyn.
Fritz-Ward is popular with the fans, clever on the ice and has not yet approached her full potential.
With the right coaching and development, Fritz-Ward could be one of the first players to become a true star in front of the NWHL’s growing audience. The Riveters’ alternate captain is just the sort of player general manager Dani Rylan needs to consider building around and holding on to no matter what the league’s first offseason brings.
As valuable as Fritz-Ward’s play in her own end has been, she has also shown flashes of that ever-dangerous combination of speed and skill. In other words: we have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Fritz-Ward can do for the Riveters and the NWHL.
Young, hardworking, selfless and charismatic: Fritz-Ward embodies the most prominent and celebrated traits of what makes a New York Riveter. With two regular season road games separating the team from their first round meeting with either the Boston Pride or the Connecticut Whale, there’s no doubt that the Riveters are going to need their leaders to play some outstanding hockey.
New York has an opportunity to shock the hockey world and get within striking distance of the first-ever Isobel Cup. If the Riveters skaters follow the example set by the indefatigable Fritz-Ward game-in and game-out, we might just see an underdog victory in the first round.