After a long wait following a disappointing inaugural season, New York Riveters are finally back. But after two games in two days against Team Russia their preseason is over before it really began.
“We have a great group right now,” head coach Chad Wiseman reflected after his team’s victory in Newark. “Obviously we have a lot of talent; a lot of puck-moving defensemen, a lot more speed up front. But they still have to come together as a unit.”
Wiseman was pleased by his team’s performance on Sunday after a shaky first period. The Riveters’ speed was on full display against Russia. Fans and members of the media were buzzing after the 2-1 win, but Wiseman put the victory into context after the game.
“We’re trying to implement our systems; our power play, penalty kill, stuff like that,” Wiseman said. “Obviously Russia’s a good team and we want to come out with a win. That’s our end goal. But it’s almost more important to do the little things right and play as a team.”
Two preseason games in two nights is just not enough to prepare the Riveters for the regular season. But those two preseason games did provide us with our first look at the new New York Riveters. And they look good.
Amanda Kessel Looks Sensational
Everyone was desperate to see something special from Amanda Kessel in her Riveters debut. She didn’t disappoint. Kessel scored a power play goal in both of the Riveters’ preseason games, including the game winning goal on Sunday night in Newark.
Kessel looked fast and determined on a team full of quick forwards. She put 12 shots on net in two games against Russia. Kessel was smacking her stick on the ice and calling for the puck on rushes, effortlessly flying through the neutral zone and carrying the puck into the offensive zone, blocking shots, and making great passes. She was everywhere.
She also proved plenty dangerous without the puck. Her skating ability and instincts make her an unparalleled forechecker. Kessel and the Riveters out-shot Russia in an amazing series of shorthanded shifts in the second period on Sunday night. Russia could hardly get out of their zone.
“We have that speed right now,” Wiseman shared after the game. “We [have] that down ice pressure.”
Shin and Fitzgerald Surprise
Jaimie Leonoff wasn’t available for either preseason game, and may not be part of the Riveters this year. As a result Sojung Shin is the Riveters’ starting goaltender and Katie Fitzgerald from St. Cloud State will be her backup.
Shin, who is listed generously at 5’6″, has a very small frame for a goaltender. But there is a lot more to her than just her small stature. Shin’s positioning and reflexes makes her very difficult to beat down low. Like many butterfly goalies she goes down quickly and sometimes gets caught with her glove hand too low, but there is a lot to like about her game.
Shin was steady against Russia on Sunday, earning recognition as the first star of the game. Fitzgerald stopped 20 of the 23 shots she faced the day after in a 4-1 defeat. Because the Riveters’ defense is so good they won’t need heroics from their goaltenders to keep them in games like they did last season. Because of that, the Riveters’ new goaltending duo might surprise a lot of people this season.
The Rookie Forwards Fit Right In
Rebecca Russo and Miye D’Oench connected on the power play for the first goal of the Riveters’ preseason. Together the duo put seven shots on net in two games and were clear catalysts for their team. D’Oench and Russo might not be the biggest forwards in the league, but they both have an effective combination of quickness and cleverness.
RPI’s Alexa Gruschow was the Riveters’ best player on the faceoff dot. She won 56.3 percent of her draws while playing low-event but reliable hockey. She might not have had any highlight reel worthy moments in a sample size of two preseason games, but she looked solid. On a team with few natural centers, Gruschow provides valuable forward depth.