PRIDE WIN THRILLER OVER RIVS TO GO 19-0, WITH BATTLE IN MINNESOTA ON HORIZON
By Jane Norton
In one of the most thrilling games of the season, the Boston Pride extended their season-opening winning streak to 19 with a 5-3 victory over the Metropolitan Riveters on Monday afternoon. The win sets up what will be a remarkable set of games next weekend in Minnesota between the NWHL’s top two teams.
The fierce battle between the Pride and rising Riveters played out before a sold-out crowd on Martin Luther King Day at the Pride’s Take the Lead game. A goal by Mallory Souliotis midway through the third period broke a 3-3 tie and was the game-winner.
“The key was there was so much traffic in front of their net,” said Souliotis. “I credit our forwards for always making it tough on the opposing goalie when our defenders are taking our shots.”
Christina Putigna scored a power play goal with 2:28 remaining to seal the victory.
“We had some adversity late in the game as the Riveters kept coming at us, but I believe in all of our players and everyone stuck with the program to get the win,” said Boston head coach Paul Mara.
After Boston carried the play for the majority of the first half of the opening period but failed to score, All-Star defender Lexi Bender gave the Pride the lead with a nifty move and backhand shot past Riveters goalie Sam Walther.
“What happened was I saw Tori Sullivan with the puck, and when Tori has the puck a lot of good things happen and I knew I could get open,” Bender said of the Boston forward. “She helped create that goal, and it was an important one for us.”
It was Sullivan who scored the goal to make it 2-0 at 17:26 of the first, before Riveters All-Star forward Kate Leary drew the visitors within on by scoring with just 31 seconds left in the period.
Leary’s goal was key in giving the Riveters some momentum going into the second period, and Ivo Mocek’s squad tied it just 2:47 in on a goal by Brooke Avery, assisted by Nicole Arnold and Tatiana Shatalova.
“Great forecheck by my linemates and a lucky shot,” said Avery, in humble hockey player fashion. “We’ve been focusing on the little things and working in the dirty areas, and let the offense come from there.”
McKenna Brand of Boston and Tatiana Shatalova of the Riveters scored early in the third to set up a dramatic ending. Could the Riveters end the Pride’s historic winning streak before a capacity crowd of Boston’s rabid hockey fans, or would the Pride come through as they often do in the end?
Despite Metropolitan’s incredible effort – including the goaltending of Walther, who made 36 saves to 14 from Boston’s Victoria Hanson – it was the Pride who got the big goals late from Souliotis and Putigna.
Now the focus for Boston turns to what many will regard as the biggest games of the NWHL regular season as the Pride travel to Minnesota for games at TRIA Rink on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Tickets are available now at www.nwhl.zone/tickets. For the Pride to end next weekend still undefeated, they’ll have to go through the defending champions, the Minnesota Whitecaps, who are 12-4-2 and winners of four straight.
“We will have to be on top of our game for a full 60 or more minutes for two days straight against Minnesota,” said Souliotis.
With his eye on the next challenge, Mara said, “The Whitecaps are an extremely talented team and they’ve been especially great over the last stretch. That’s going to be some amazing hockey next weekend in Minnesota in what I’m sure will be a loud arena. We will be ready.”
Photo Credit: Michelle Jay