Photo by David Siegrist

Metropolitan Riveters kickoff new era at American Dream on high note

On a chilly November afternoon, a Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) regular season game between Metropolitan Riveters and Toronto Six took place at the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford.

The Metropolitan Riveters are one of the founding members of the Premier Hockey Federation, a women's professional ice hockey league that began in 2015. They won their only Isobel Cup championship in 2018, but the Riveters have been diminished over the last four years. This prompted the front office to hire Venla Hovi as their new head coach. She had a long professional playing career that included representing her home country, Finland, at the Winter Olympics. However, her task is to turn around a Riveters team that finished below .500 during each of the last three seasons.

For the Riveters, November 19th's game against Toronto will live on in infamy because it was the franchise's first home game at East Rutherford's American Dream Mall.

As is customary on special occasions, there was a ceremonial puck drop before the game between the captain of the home team, Madison Packer, and the away team, Shiann Darkangelo. Last season, the Toronto Six defeated Metro all four times they faced them but three of those games were decided by one goal. However, this year's Riveters team has new leadership and they would show that they were ready to play on the penalty kill early in the first period.

The Riveters were shorthanded just four minutes into the game and then, Sarah Bujold went in on a breakaway beating Toronto Six goaltender Elaine Chuli with a confident wrist shot at 4:30. Besides the Riveters taking an early lead, the first period was close and in fact, Toronto had a decisive edge in the shot on goal department. The visiting team's work paid off when defenseman Katie Tabin took a shot that somehow found its way past Metropolitan goaltender Rachel McQuigge, 14 minutes into the first period.

Riveters Raise Game in the Second

When the two teams skated back out onto the ice for the second period, the game looked like it would be a close affair but the home team was hungry to win for the first time during this season. At the 8:38 mark, Toronto got a breakaway chance, and forward Britney Howard finished with a highlight-reel backhand finish to put the Toronto Six ahead 2-1.

The Riveters were quick to respond and their response came off the stick of Sarah Bujold after netting her first goal of the season, which assisted Kelly Babstock's wrist shot from the slot.

The Riveters weren't done there because Bujold added her second of the game, smacking home a great pass from Babstock at 11:55 of the second period. Yet minutes later, the Riveters were applying more and more pressure on Toronto's defense when Packer carried the puck into Toronto's defensive zone. Packer took a shot from a wide angle that was deflected by a Toronto player's stick but, staying with it, the captain took a second shot that went in and Riveters then led 4-2.

Once the third period started, the Riveters stretched their lead to three when Babstock scored her second goal to stretch the lead to 5-2. Still, the visiting team was not giving up and would score on the power play at 8:12 to cut their deficit to 5-3. But it was all for naught as the Riveters captain ended up scoring an empty-net goal to seal the final score at 6-3 as the home team got their first win in their first game at American Dream in East Rutherford.

Postgame Reactions

  1. Sarah Bujold: 2 goals, one assist
  2. Kelly Babstock: 2 goals, one assist
  3. Emma Woods: 1 goal, two assists

The final score was lopsided in favor of the home team, but it's worth noting that after the first period, the game was tied and at that point, both teams were playing strong defensively. Toronto's only star of the game, Emma Woods, described why matching the physicality that Metro likes to use will be a key for her team going forward.

We know we have a really skilled team, but we want to bring physical game too. It's a gritty game when you play against Metropolitan, you know but we're going to come up to their level and play cleaner tomorrow but we still want to bring physicality.

Meanwhile, during the press conference with the Riveters' head coach Venla Hovi and first star of the game, Sarah Bujold, there were some interesting comments made about the game despite it being a smashing victory for the home team in their first game at the American Dream Mall.

We take away the positive of scoring [six] goals on 20 shots..." Coach said. "I wasn't completely happy with how we played. We got pretty lucky in a few situations so there's still things to work on, but I'm really glad we found some chemistry within the lines today. That was a big changing point and helped us score today. - Riveters head coach, Venla Hovi

The Riveters will return to the American Dream Mall rink on Sunday at 12:00 p.m to face Toronto in the second of their back-to-back. Meanwhile, Coach Hovi believes this game showed her team was forming good chemistry and Sunday's matinee will be another test as Toronto was the second-place team in the Premier Hockey Federation last season and will not go down without a fight.

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Anthony graduated from Montclair State University, where he covered a variety of sports for three years. He co-hosts a sports-themed radio show on campus radio station, WMSC 90.3 FM, which was recently named #1 college radio station in the nation.

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