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Brianna Decker, Kiira Dosdall in the corner scrabble for the puck. New York Riveters at Boston Pride, Semifinals, March 6-7 2016. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini
Womens Hockey

Riveters seek to keep their physical identity

Chad Wiseman has been the busiest general manager in the NWHL this offseason. No other team is as close to a completed roster or has made as many changes to their personnel as the Riveters have. But even with the infusion of so many new faces and talent, the philosophy of Riveters hockey won’t change much.

In an interview with Today’s SlapShot in April, Wiseman highlighted speed and scoring ability as two of the Riveters’ most pressing needs. He also revealed that he had full control over the team’s systems last season and that he was going to stick to his guns.

Wiseman believes there is a right way to play the game and his new roster reflects that. The Riveters may have more talent and speed than they did last year, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be a physical, aggressive team.

Most of the Riveters’ size and strength will be on the blue line. Kiira Dosdall, Ashley Johnston, and newcomer Milica McMillen are all big defenders. Dosdall, who stands at 5’9”, is the smallest of the three.

In 18 regular season games last season Dosdall accumulated 20 penalty minutes and led all Riveters defenders in shots. She is the oldest player on a roster defined by youth and potential. Dosdall’s two-way play and strength in her own zone convinced Wiseman to make her one of just two defenders returning to the team next season.

Ashley Johnston heads for the puck in the corner. NWHL New York Riveters at Connecticut Whale Feb 28 2016. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini

Ashley Johnston heads for the puck in the corner. NWHL New York Riveters at Connecticut Whale Feb 28 2016. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini

Johnston, the team’s captain, is New York’s other returning blueliner. At 6’0” Johnston doesn’t lose many battles along the boards. She has proven that she is no stranger to battling in the corners or in front of the net, but took just four minor penalties last season.

Disciplined, responsible play paired with a large frame makes Johnston a troublesome obstacle for opposing offenses. In a recent interview with Today’s SlapShot Johnston spoke about the physical style that she expects her team to play next season.

“It’s going to be a nice balance between that speed [and] that aggressive physicality,” said Johnston. “I think it’s going to be a really fun, hybrid style of hockey.”

The Riveters have an abundance of speed and youth among their forwards. They also have plenty of size and muscle. Their most physical forwards are familiar faces from last year’s roster- a team that was known for its rough and tumble hockey.

Winger and alternate captain Madison Packer is one of those familiar faces. She is projected to be a second line winger. Packer has tremendous stick strength and great instincts around the net. At 5’9” she is a handful when screening goaltenders, especially on the power play.

Packer plays a fierce brand of hockey and isn’t shy about attacking loose pucks. In 16 games last season she took 11 minor penalties. She will remain New York’s most aggressive and physical forward.

Janine Weber, the Riveters only returning player from outside of North America, also brings size to the lineup. Weber is listed at 5’10” but isn’t known for her physical play. She is best known for her smooth skating stride and balanced game.

Weber doesn’t push bodies around with the same zeal as Packer and she could stand to add more aggression to her game. Still, she is fearless in puck pursuit and her reach is a big part of her game with and without the puck. Her greatest assets are her intelligence and positioning. Weber took just two minor penalties last season.

Another familiar face that doesn’t shy away from contact is defensive forward Morgan Fritz-Ward. Fritz-Ward might not have the size of Packer or Weber but she there is no questioning her compete level. What she lacks in top-end skill she makes up for in skating ability and work ethic- two traits that Wiseman’s new Riveters are built on.

The key for the Riveters and their aggressive style will be staying out of the box.

Last season, New York was second in the league in penalties taken, but the anticipated boost in the team’s puck possession should mean less time playing shorthanded.

Women’s hockey is a physical sport. In a league that penalizes body checking, the value of size and strength is easy to overlook. Physicality can be a huge asset in all three zones. The Riveters ability to out-skate the opposition and exert their will with size and strength will help them change their reputation.

Despite the new and improved roster, it appears the philosophy behind Riveters hockey will remain the same.

Riveters seek to keep their physical identity

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