Last Sunday Minnesota was supposed to host the Metropolitan Riveters for the NWHL semifinals, however due to inclement weather that game was delayed until Friday night. Unfortunately for the Riveters, switching the game to a Friday meant that several of their skaters were unable to attend, including Kelsey Koelzer and Kimberly Sass, nor was Amanda Kessel there as she sustained an injury during the Metropolitan last game against the Connecticut Whale. At least Katie Fitzgerald was able to be in goal for the Riveters, while at the opposite end of the rink Amanda Leveille had the start for Minnesota.
As the teams haven’t faced each other since October, it was no surprise they spent the several minutes of the game feeling each other out as play went from end to end of the rink. Lee Stecklein had a nice blue line blast. Just a little later Amanda Boulier made a left point shot through traffic into the back of the net at 3:36. Kendall Coyne Schofield had the lone assist. Allie Thunstrom did her best with a bad angled shot, but Fitzgerald stopped her cold. The Riveters kept the puck in Minnesota’s zone for a large chunk of the period, however they didn’t maintain possession throughout that time. Jenny Ryan had a great shot on a screened Leveille, but she still managed the save through blind luck.
Lauren Barnes made an attempt on goal, which ended with her knocking a Riveter onto Fitzgerald and then a little extracurricular shoving after the whistle. Rebecca Russo made a nice shot from the left circle that almost resulted in a goal when Leveille couldn’t hang onto the shot before Stecklein cleared the crease. Audra Richards flew down the right side for a shot before making another attempt which was also thwarted a few seconds later. Schofield rang one off Fitzgerald’s mask. A Hannah Brandt shot caused a scramble at the Riveters’ crease, which ended with a Fitzgerald’s cover up.
Jonna Curtis gave the puck to Katie McGovern and a little later McGovern was passing back to Curtis, who was on the doorstep, but the puck hit a Riveter skate and slipped past Fitzgerald into goal at 12:24. After that the Whitecaps were boxing the Riveters into their own zone for a little while, which would be a reoccurring pattern throughout the game. Fitzgerald denied Brandt on another attempt shortly after Leveille fended off a Riveter charging into her net with the puck. Emma Stauber took out Madison Packer and went for roughing at 18:08. The Riveters couldn’t do much with power play and it harmlessly expired early second period.
After beating the team in front of Leveille Packer couldn’t beat the goaltender with her 5-hole attempt. Minnesota continued acting like they were on a power play, though the dominance did not produce a shot of shots. Miye D’Oench passed to Kristin Lewicki, who blasted the puck to a third teammate for a backdoor attempt, but a Whitecap managed to clear it instead. Rebecca Morse slashed Thunstrom along the boards at 6:17 and Metropolitan did an excellent job keeping play out of their zone during the penalty, though Fitzgerald had to pull out a fantastic elbow save to keep Thunstrom from scoring on yet another breakaway.
Richards made an attempt from the left side a little later Lewicki made the same play with equal success. McGovern sent the puck flying through the crease, hoping to have similar success as her earlier goal. Then Thunstrom flew up the right side and Chelsea Ziadie blocked her shot. The fire alarms at TRIA Rink went off when there were roughly four minutes left in the period, but everyone in the stands and on the ice ignored it in favor of finishing the period, despite the flashing lights and recorded messaging requesting everyone leave the building; later it was announced that a child had pulled an alarm.
Russo made a lateral shot that went high, which was part of a Riveter flurry, which ended when Leveille covered the puck. Thunstrom made another swoop on goal, which was foiled by Ziadie body checking her at 17:57. On the resulting power play Brandt scored from just to Fitzgerald’s right after a quick back and forth with Amy Menke. Boulier had the second assist on the goal, which came at 18:16. In the final seconds of the period Richards drove to the crease for a stellar shot, but Leveille still managed a glove block and keep the puck clear past the whistle.
Early third period Brandt blasted Thunstrom’s drop pass on goal and Fitzgerald covered the puck before a backdoor attempt could be made. Michelle Picard made a screened shot, which didn’t trick Leveille. The Riveters got trapped into their own zone again. Courtney Burke had a solid shot that ended in a glove save. Richards made another shot that Leveille barely blocked. D’Oench and Brandt got tangled up in front of the Minnesota crease and their sticks went flying. D’Oench picked up Brandt’s stick before following the play, which caused Brandt to grab her arm and demand her stick. These actions resulted in both players going to the box for holding at 6:40. During the 4-on-4 play Schofield had a breakaway up the right side and then Stecklein had one as well, but she couldn’t get the shot off.
D’Oench went back to the box at 11:50 for body checking. The Whitecaps nearly scored at the start and then nullified the rest of their power play when Kate Schipper took a body checking minor at 12:06. At 12:44 the Riveters pulled Fitzgerald for the extra skater. Then Ryan earned a hooking penalty in the process of keeping Thunstrom from making an empty netter at 13:32, resulting in 4-on-3 play. Both teams returned to full strength without conversion. Minnesota was still on the attack when Richards tackle-shoved Kalli Funk without a call. Fitzgerald was pulled again at 15:56, which allowed Brandt an empty net goal at 16:46 after she caused a turnover. Fitzgerald went back into goal.
Schofield’s flyby resulted in her cross checking a Riveter at 17:14. Fitzgerald was pulled again briefly, but had to be put back between the pipes because Minnesota was doing an aggressive PK. There was a scramble at the crease during the power play and ultimately Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal went for cross-checking at 18:47, giving the Riveters a 5-on-3 advantage. Metropolitan immediately used their timeout and pulled Fitzgerald again. Burke scored top shelf from the left circle, killing the shutout at 19:12. Ryan assisted on this power play goal. Thunstrom had another breakaway, but this time fed it to Barnes for a shorthanded empty netter at 19:33. With that the Whitecaps won 5-1, knocking the Riveters out of the playoffs. Sunday at 1:30 pm CT Minnesota hosts Buffalo on home ice for the the 2019 NWHL Championship and the Isobel Cup.
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