RIVS TALK WITH FALK: HUNGRY FOR STRONG FINISH AT HOME BEFORE PLAYOFFS
We have reached the end of a memorable regular season for the NWHL. This is the last weekend of the season before the 2020 Isobel Cup Playoffs begin and we already know what the matchups will be.
The Riveters are locked in at third place in the standings. We know they will be making a third trip to Minnesota as they face the Whitecaps in the semifinals on Sunday, March 8 at 12:30 p.m. CT/1:30 ET after the teams split their six-game series (Riveters: 3-3, Whitecaps: 3-1-2).
While the Riveters can’t improve where they sit in the standings, they can accomplish something significant this weekend. After starting the season with a 2-6 record – playing the Boston Pride five times in that span didn’t help – the Riveters have gone 7-4-3 since. In fact, if you erase the Riveters’ record against the winningest team in a single season in NWHL history, the Riveters record is 9-3-3.
Saturday at 6:30 p.m. the Riveters will host the Buffalo Beauts. On Sunday, less than 24 hours later, the teams will play again at 4:30 p.m. Tickets for both games are available at riveters.nwhl.zone/tickets and fans can catch all of the action on the NWHL on Twitch.
This season has been a fight for the Riveters since day one. They deserve this opportunity to put a stamp on the year and finish with a winning record. To some, it might be small potatoes, but consider how far this team has come from the 2018-19 season. Finishing with a record of 11-10-3 would be a significant accomplishment.
1. Activate #Scorenine
This is a situation that concerns me quite a bit. After roaring out of the gate, all-star rookie center Kendall Cornine has gone ice-cold. She has played seven games without scoring a goal and has picked up just three assists in that window.
For the Riveters to take down the powerful Whitecaps, Cornine must get something going offensively. Facing a Beauts team that has allowed the most goals in the league could help get her going. Then again, the Beauts kept her in check in the last series just a few weeks back.
Cornine is a vital part of the offense for the Riveters and getting her back on the scoresheet would be huge before the playoffs.
2. Power Play
Since Jan. 20, the Riveters have gone 1-for-23 on the power play. That needs to get better – and fast. Special teams are extremely important come playoff time, especially when it’s a one-and-done situation.
Buffalo has allowed the most power-play goals in the league and has the second-worst penalty kill in the league at 80 percent (Connecticut has a 75.9 percent success rate). The Riveters' only power-play goal in the span mentioned above was against Buffalo but was part of a 1-for-10 weekend which including wasting a five-minute major. That’s just not good enough.
The Beauts have had discipline issues all season long, which should present the Riveters with ample opportunity to get their power play clicking. The addition of Sacred Heart University’s Jayne Lewis could also provide a spark, but at the end of the day, the Riveters need to get pucks on net.
3. Stay Healthy
What else is there to say? The rivalry between the Beauts and Riveters has always been defined by intense, physical play, but an injury right before the playoffs could seriously hinder the Riveters’ chances against the Whitecaps. Every team in the league is ramping up their play to prepare for the playoffs, but this is no time to get carried away. It may not be easy to play calm, cool, and composed against the Beauts, but that is exactly what head coach Ivo Mocek's team needs to do this weekend.
Look for the Riveters to go with short shifts and sound, structured play against the Beauts this weekend. This season, the Riveters have gone 3-0-1 against the Beauts, so they are the favorites. On Saturday, they need to stick to the gameplan, stay healthy, and take that first step towards finishing the 2019-20 season with a winning record.
Photo Credit: Kate Frese