Wenczkowski and Putigna Overwhelming on Offense in Boston’s Shutout Victory Over Riveters

by Jacob Solomons

With the home half of the season behind us, the Pride will head out on the road in the final stretch of the season. The Riveters have some unfinished business against Boston, as they split the first series 1-1, back in January at Warrior Arena. This series was set to take place back on December 18 and 19, however safety protocols were exercised, forcing the games to be postponed to a later date.

Now that those later dates have arrived, just in time for the playoffs, both teams have a chance to get their opportunity at revenge. Having been rivals since the “founding four” era of the PHF fka NWHL, the Pride and Riveters would meet once again to rekindle their rivalry.

Saturday’s game featured a special jersey design by the Riveters, highlighting the importance of Mental Health Awareness. Physical health is important, especially when playing hockey. However, mental health is equally important and is not talked about as often as it should be. Bringing awareness through a jersey design is creative yet very effective in getting the conversation started to make people comfortable enough to normalize Mental Health Awareness.


First Period

For the last few games, the “control the puck in the neutral zone” strategy has alluded Boston, as we saw in last Sunday’s game vs. the Buffalo Beauts. However, the Riveters were the ones who could not hold onto the puck as the opening period began. Both teams started out a bit hesitant trying to feel each other out, looking to expose any weaknesses early on and take advantage offensively. The Pride’s two-game sweep over the Buffalo Beauts provided some momentum coming into the game vs the Riveters, but playing on the road always provides some uncertainty in their ability to get the upper hand early.

Boston’s offensive presence created openings in the first half of the period, as Jenna Rheault had an opportunity with an open-net shot, that was fanned on yet still somehow on target. A bit of confusion on the play as Rheault celebrated too early as the official called the play dead, as Brooke Wolejko barely stopped the puck on the doorstep.

Tori Sullivan would christen the penalty box as she was caught for a body-checking penalty at 6:26. With Sullivan’s first penalty of the season, Boston’s penalty kill to make their weekend debut. Usually when the penalty kill line comes on the ice, you get a bit nervous when there’s a player missing. With Boston, they’ve been successful on 42 of 46 attempts at killing a penalty…that’s pretty good.

Boston’s struggle to get the puck out of the zone has been a result of poor passing decisions and general lack of intensity to break out of the zone. There’s simply no other explanation. It makes sense that a slow start to the game can happen, but too many no-look passes are not helpful to anyone except your opponent. The Riveters generated a deep offensive presence but thankfully the Pride have Katie Burt in net to keep them alive.

Katie Burt has been nothing short of a brick wall, coming into Saturday’s game with a .960 Save Percentage. Burt got some action Boston’s 4-3 comeback win last weekend and got the start in Sunday’s 1-0 victory, so her readiness against Metropolitan is none too surprising. The Riveters outshot the Pride 10-5 in the first period, with no goals to Burt’s credit.

The Pride would once again head to the shorthand as Sammy Davis would be called for cross-checking. A nasty play in front of the Riveters bench would see Colleen Murphy poke the puck away from Davis. Davis would retaliate with a hit sending Murphy into the boards, no injuries occurred but Murphy clutched her shoulder as she skated off. Hockey is physical by nature, but you never wish to see a player get hurt – for any team.

As the clock ran down to zero, neither team could find a way to get on the board – aside from the penalty time clock. The Pride and Riveters would need to find a way to keep the puck on their stick if they wanted to create any scoring chances. Breaking into the attacking zone is all well and good, but if you can’t score, what does it matter? Both teams needed to find those opportunities in the second period.

SCORE BOS – 0, MET – 0 

 

Second Period

With the first period rather quiet on the scoreboard, both teams needed to find a way to stay locked in offensively to get a lead. The Riveters got the early chance as Kayla Friesen was assessed an interference  penalty at 2:16…not the best gift Friesen wanted to receive on her birthday. The Riveters had full control offensively during the Friesen powerplay, but could not connect on any shots. Boston’s PK unit never fails to show up and do their job. The blocked shots by Boston’s defenders made it seem as though there were two sets of goaltenders on the ice. Metropolitan’s presence was in full effect, but their firepower wasn’t, even though a few shots tested Burt with little effect.  

The majority of the second period was played along the boards, where most of the puck control seemed to take place. As we saw in the first, puck possession was a weakness for both teams. Unfortunately, this issue remained unresolved in the second period, neither Boston nor Metro could really keep the puck on their stick. Passing the puck does not work unless the person you’re trying to connect with can see the puck coming. It seems as though the player’s focus was not at a level it needs to be, which is somewhat concerning as we get closer to the playoffs.

Technical issues plagued this game from start to finish. Defensive zone clearing was unsuccessful for the Riveters as the Pride overwhelmed them on the forecheck. Boston took advantage and took over on offense, with a 3-on-2 attack. Meghara McManus challenged Brooke Wolejko with a backhander, deflected into the air where Taylor Wenczkowski tipped the puck in off the rebound for Boston’s first goal of the game at 12:39. Wenczkowski’s sixth of the season. “Keeping your stick down to make things happen is what we have to do,” Wenczkowski said during the intermission.

When asked about the success of Boston’s penalty kill this season, Wenczkowski praised the intensity and grittiness of Boston’s special teams. “I think being aggressive all around the ice is important to success on the PK. We don’t want to give them time to get shots off and being there on defense attributes to our success”

Riveters had a late 2-on-1 attack with Emily Janiga crossing up the defense but couldn’t fool Katie Burt, denying Janiga with a routine pad save. “She’s been our backbone, we have a lot of trust in our goaltenders and they [Riveters] have outshot us 26 to 14, Burty is definitely saving our butts and we need to get a few more goals to help her out,” Wenczkowski said.

Riveters missed a pass in their attacking zone, causing them to clear. Wenczkowski read the play and prevented Metro from resetting their offense, creating a 2-on-1 break for Boston. Wenczkowski couldn’t connect on her shot on Wolejko who was challenged quite a bit on the sporadic offensive rushes Boston had throughout the game. For most of regulation Brooke Wolejko was a machine, saving almost everything that came her way.

Boston’s “defensive enforcer” Meghara McManus has stayed consistent with her hard-nose style of play, to the point where she would be sent to the box for tripping at 16:22. McManus is usually on the special teams killing off a penalty, so it’s ironic to see her be the reason Boston is shorthanded. Even with McManus in the box, the Pride killed off the penalty successfully, contributing to their 92% success rate.

The Pride were able to hold off Metropolitan for the remainder of the period, keeping them off the scoreboard. With the final 20 minutes left to play, Boston needed to find a way to keep the pressure on without letting the Riveters find an open slot to threaten a tie game in the third.

SCORE: BOS – 1, MET – 0.


Third Period

Boston’s ability to keep control in their own zone to set up offensively was short-lived, as the Riveters forecheck pressured Kaleigh Fratkin quite a bit. Fratkin turned the puck over twice thanks to their forecheck, but thankfully the Rivs could not capitalize. A bit of comfortability may have set in with a 1-0 lead during intermission for Boston.

The opening four minutes saw three icing calls against Boston which is good and bad. The positive is that their ability to clear the defensive zone is effective, which has been an issue thus far so we can’t blame them for that. On the other hand, three faceoffs in your defensive zone is advantageous to your opponent to create a scoring chance, which is not ideal when the Riveters have been dominating your zone all game.

Amanda Boulier got an opening to take a slapshot on-line, getting Boston their first significant offensive zone attack of the third. McKenna Brand got a chance down low to put Boston ahead 2-0, but to no avail. “Brick Wall-ejko” seemed to be a more fitting name for Metropolitan’s netminder, who knew she needed to play on her head if she wanted to keep her team within one goal in hopes to tie the game.

Metro cleared the zone, giving Wolejko a chance to breathe as Kelly Babstock gathered the puck into the zone for a mid-range slapshot. Burt deflected to the point where Mallory Souliotis tried to control the puck, as Kendall Cornine would forcefully extend her stick for a delayed penalty. The Pride would get their first powerplay at 5:29 on a sashing call on Cornine. The Pride have only had two powerplay goals all season, both scored by Taylor Wenczkowski. With her name on the scoresheet today already, maybe she could provide Boston with their third powerplay goal of the season…

The Riveters stayed right on top of the Pride, making it seem as though they were the ones on the powerplay. Miscommunication in the zone resulted in Metro clearing the zone, transitioning to a 2-on-1 with the Riveters on the attack. The passing by Boston, in general, has not been effective in any capacity. Nobody seemed to know who was getting the puck, who they’re trying to pass to, or what zone they’re passing in. Not to make excuses, but the powerplay has struggled offensively all season so it’s not out of character for the Pride to play this way. But on the bright side, it gives the team concrete evidence on where to improve their strategy ahead of the playoffs. If the Pride sort out their powerplay issues, the other PHF teams will have a hard time keeping them from taking home their third Isobel Cup.

Around the halfway mark in the third, the Riveters picked up on the nonchalant style of play Boston was implementing. The one goal lead had given the Pride a sense of safety, as their energy level decreased to about 75%. A team like Metro could turn the game around at the slightest hint of fatigue in their opponent.

The Rivs took advantage on offense, rightfully so, overloading the attacking zone. Kendall Cornine and Madison Packer challenged Burt on the doorstep, but no goals allowed just yet. Cornine’s presence in front gave her a chance but her shot hit the post. Burt had laser focus all game and even shooting on an open net couldn’t give Metropolitan the chance they needed to tie the game. It seemed like even when Katie Burt wasn’t there, she was still there.

An incorrect icing call moved the faceoff to center ice, causing a bit of confusion. The Riveters would call a timeout at 17:34. Wolejko was on the bench to give Metro the extra skater, but the center ice faceoff forced her back in net as head coach Ivo Mocek was not happy at all about the faceoff placement. The puck would clear and Wolejko headed to the bench in a final-effort for the Riveters to get a game-tying goal with a 6-on-5 advantage.

Just under a minute left and it became a neutral zone battle once again. Christina Putigna controlled the puck along the boards as Wenczkowski poked it out to her, skating it in on the far left wing and buried it in the empty net for the game-winning goal at 19:40. The clock would run down to zero as Boston would collect their third consecutive win, improving their record to 10-5. The Riveters fall to 5-11-1, losing their third consecutive game. The regular season finale against the Riveters will take place on Sunday at 4PM.

Final Score: Boston – 2, Metropolitan – 0.