Out east the NWHL’s chugged on successfully for their third season. Since their visit to Minneapolis for the All-Star Game and Skills Competition in February the NWHL finished their regular season and then had their post-season playoff games. Two teams, the Metropolitan Riveters and the Buffalo Beauts, emerged victorious and punched their tickets for a chance to play for the championship. Today the Riveters and the Beauts met on the Metropolitan’s home ice, the Barnabas Health Hockey House, to determine who would take home the Isobel Cup.
As this was the biggest game of the season both teams went with their starting goaltenders—Buffalo chose former Minnesota Gopher, Amanda Leveille, as they have every game this season, while former St. Cloud State Husky Katie Fitzgerald tended goal for the Riveters. Both teams were ready to go at puck drop pushing to score as fast as possible. Despite having her feet taken out as she reached the crease on the right side, Alexa Gruschow still managed to bang the puck home, scoring at 5:33. Miye D’Oench had the lone assist.
Courtney Burke tripped Kristin Lewicki and went to the box, but Buffalo was unable to convert on the power play. Near the end of the period Sarah Casorso slammed Madison Packer into the boards, taking her out for the rest of the period, earning a two-minute minor, which was served by Taylor Accursi, and a 10 minute game misconduct at 17:27. Despite being double screened as the Riveters hammered away on the power play, Leveille managed to keep the puck out through the rest of the period.
Second period was a quiet period. Basically it was a lot of back and forth rink racing across as both teams dealt out shots. A couple minutes before the halfway mark Rebecca Russo got the first excellent chance of the period on a breakaway, but Leveille was better. After that the Beauts offense went on the attack harrying Fitzgerald for quite a while before the Riveters started taking shots again. At 14:01 Metropolitan used their timeout to rest their players. The Riveters then had another solid flurry that spanned much of the rest of the period. At 19:44 Jacquie Greco took a slightly delayed interference penalty that expired early third period.
Kelly Nash nearly scored when she tried to ram the puck through Leveille after the puck bounced off the goaltender, but couldn’t get through before play was whistled down. Maddie Elia then had a great chance, however Fitzgerald had the better save and then denied several more Beauts. A little later Fitzgerald barely reacted as she took Casorso’s slapshot off the top of her mask to make the save. At 8:32 the Beauts took a too many skaters penalty, which landed Accursi back in the box, and killed it two minutes later.
Buffalo caused a real mess in Fitzgerald’s crease, but were unable to squeak the puck by her and players had to be separated after the whistle. The Beauts continued their offensive assault, which was momentarily paused when they knocked the net off its moorings at 14:24. This got the Riveters fresh legs on the ice and they finally got play out of their zone for a little bit, trying to widen the scoring gap, before they were stuck back on the defense for the final minutes of the game. Buffalo pulled Leveille with 52 seconds left in the game and then used their timeout five seconds later at 19:13. This gave Buffalo their best final shot of the game, but it wasn’t enough. The Metropolitan Riveters win 1-0, completing Leveille’s shutout after being outshot 21-18, and became NWHL champions for the first time.
We did it. #IsobelCupFinal pic.twitter.com/0drPIVqBCP— Metro Riveters (@Riveters) March 25, 2018