Saturday afternoon marked the day Minnesota NWHL fans had been waiting for: the first Minnesota Whitecaps game since they joined the NWHL. Even better it was held at their home rink, the TRIA Rink in downtown St. Paul, in front of a sold out crowd against last season’s champions, the Metropolitan Riveters. Everyone was pumped for puck drop, which it eventually did in a ceremonial drop by the original Whitecaps founders just before the game started.
The Whitecaps got off to a great start and dominated the first several minutes of play, though Alexa Aramburu nearly scored on goaltender Amanda Leveille’s backdoor. Then Kendall Coyne Schofield had a lovely breakaway, which Riveters’ goalie Katie Fitzgerald denied. Amid a lot of puck chasing by both sides Rebecca Russo had a couple of solid chances and then it looked like Jenny Ryan 5-holed the puck from the right circle, but Leveille blocked the shot just in time.
Rebecca Morse shoved a Whitecap down right in front of the Minnesota crease, which earned her a cross checking penalty at 12:08. Whitecaps got some solid puck cycling going right off the bat and nearly banged it home 5-hole, but it was Katie McGovern’s slot shot at 13:29 after Jonna Curtis carried it up the right side that got Minnesota on the board. The Whitecaps made several great flyby attempts on Fitzgerald and then the Riveters had a small flurry, which ended when Fiona McKenna took a hooking penalty at 19:38.
Second period started with the Whitecaps peppering Fitzgerald until the Riveters killed the penalty. A little later Lee Stecklein shot on goal and Fitzgerald blocked the shot. So Kate Schipper had a try with the rebound, which Hannah Brandt swooped in and poked into goal just behind Fitzgerald stick side before falling at 4:12. Schofield made another attempt after flying up the right side, but got denied. Then Metro finally went back on the attack and while harrying Leveille, nearly scored on the backdoor. Amanda Boulier zipped up the right side and fed the puck to Brandt on the doorstep for an excellent shot into Fitzgerald. Minnesota stayed on the attack in Metro’s zone for pretty much the rest of the period and got a lot of great chances on goal, though they didn’t record that many official shots.
At 19:06 Schipper earned a body-checking minor and that penalty expired harmlessly third period. As soon as they were back to full strength Minnesota was back on the attack. This resulted in a Schipper slot shot goal at 3:34. Schofield and Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal had the assists. Winny Brodt Brown took Madison Packer down, which sent the Whitecaps captain to the box for interference at 5:26. On this penalty Leveille had to make a few fast saves and slide from post to post as it expired, but still managed to keep the puck out. Then Packer wound up in the box for body checking Meghan Pezon at 8:08 and had to wait the full two minutes to get out.
McKenna made a close up shot into Leveille’s chest as the Riveters buzzed around her. Audra Richards made a great flyby attempt after going up the right side, but when she tried to do it a second time Stecklein stopped her in her tracks. Then Russo had an excellent chance from just outside the crease, but Leveille deflected the puck with her elbow. Seconds later Russo wiped out and Brooke White-Lancette wound up in the box at 18:20. Fitzgerald was pulled in hopes of getting the Riveters on the board, but all that resulted in was Schofield getting an unassisted shorthanded empty netter after soaring up the right side at 19:04. Fitzgerald was restored to her net for the rest of the game. Thus with the 4-0 victory achieved, the Minnesota Whitecaps added first win and first shutout to the list of their historic firsts with the (current) NWHL.