RIVETERS IN PLAYOFF-MODE AS THEY PREPARE FOR REGULAR SEASON FINALE
By Dan Rice
On the surface, this weekend’s games for the Metropolitan Riveters may not seem important, but there are a few reasons why there’s more than meets the eye on the line in their final two regular-season games. First off, after a 2-6-0 start to their fifth season, the Riveters can finish at 11-10-3 if they sweep both games against the Buffalo Beauts. That’s no small accomplishment for a team that had 14 players (of 22) making their NWHL debut this season.
Secondly, no team wants to start the playoffs coming off of a loss and every team wants to be playing well or peaking when the games become elimination games. “Even though the points don’t matter, this weekend is huge for setting the tone for the playoffs,” said veteran defender Kiira Dosdall-Arena. “It’s some of the biggest games of our season if you think of it that way. We want to set the tone and keep the momentum going so that we’re on a high going into those crucial one-game, do-or-die playoff games.”
Dosdall-Arena added that with this group there is no need for her or captain Madison Packer to say anything. Everyone knows what is on the line with the Isobel Cup Playoffs on the horizon. But just to make sure everyone is on the same page head coach Ivo Mocek sent out a team email reiterating the importance of these final two regular-season games before a playoff rematch with the Minnesota Whitecaps.
“I told them before practice that beginning today we are in playoff mode. Going into this weekend we are going to play like it’s a playoff game,” said Mocek following Tuesday night's practice. “Yes, we have that cushion of being locked in as the third seed and maybe that’s good to take any pressure off (this weekend). We want to play hard, we want to compete, and I told the players that we have to be ready for the playoff game - and there is no better way with two home games this weekend.”
The Rivs and Whitecaps split the season series, with each team winning three times, and the Riveters believe that the confidence gained in the season series will be to their advantage when the puck drops on March 8 aka Semifinal Sunday. “I totally agree with that. The players know it, I know it - we can play with them,” said Mocek.
“They’re a very strong team, especially the last two months where they have played extremely well. They beat Boston and they have a few players that are dominating. But I believe if we are prepared for them mentally, physically, and come up with the right strategy we can play with them.”
Dosdall-Arena is one of the few holdovers from last season that experienced heartbreak in the semifinal last year in the State of Hockey, but she is looking forward to getting another crack at the champions. “They have a tone of speed, but I think we can match that and play them really tough. We’re excited to play them, and I love playing in that rink. They have great fans, it’s a great atmosphere, and it’s really fun to play there.”
But, first things first, the Buffalo Beauts are never an easy matchup for the Riveters and they will also be looking to gain some momentum heading into their playoff game against the Connecticut Whale on March 6, with the winner earning a date with the Boston Pride two days later. Fans can buy tickets to all upcoming games at nwhl.zone/tickets.
The Rivs are expected to have Sam Walther back in net after Dana Demartino started for their injured All-Star the past two games, but Coach Mocek wouldn’t reveal how much we’ll see of her. “The plan is that Sam is going to play. I won’t tell you if she’s playing both, one, or half. But you’ll definitely see her (on the ice) this weekend,” he said.
Two players who should definitely be on the ice for both games are newly-signed Haley Frade (Providence) and Jayne Lewis (Sacred Heart). Both were at practice this week and were signed just before the roster freeze for added depth. Perhaps they can give the lineup a jolt of energy for this stretch run.
Frade played on a PTO against Boston last week and Mocek was pleased with what he saw. “I think she played really well but needs a little bit of practice - which she’ll get this week. With Lewis, I have some ideas but we really needed that depth, flexibility, and options because last week we were missing a lot of players. We don’t want to take a risk (and not have depth) if something happens. She just finished her college career and is in shape, at her peak. It’s great to have her here.”
The Riveters bench boss says he has an idea of what he wants his lineup to look like when the puck drops in Minnesota for a chance to advance to the Isobel Cup Final, but he also wants to see how this weekend’s games go before really settling on anything.
Photo Credit: Kate Frese