The NWHL Final was this weekend with the Buffalo Beauts playing the Metropolitan Riveters in Newark, New Jersey. The Riveters won the Isobel Cup 1-0, making this not only the first Cup appearance, but also the first Cup win for the franchise. The lone goal was scored by Alexa Gruschow, while goaltender and MVP Katie Fitzgerald posted a shutout for the second game in a row in the playoffs.
“I know I went through a bit of a slump in the second half of the season but the moment the team started to turn around, I felt it personally as well,” said Fitzgerald when asked about not allowing a single goal in the playoffs. “I think I just started not to put pressure on myself. We all try to do the same thing, just take it period by period and win each period the best we can and enjoy it because it’s the best time of the year. Playoffs are such hard-fought, competitive games with high-pressure situations and that’s the most fun to be in. To be able to come out on top is just the cherry.”
The Riveters started off the season winning 11 games straight before losing to the Beauts in February, while the Beauts finished the season winning 11 games straight before losing to the Riveters in the Cup Final. It was great to see two of the top teams in the NWHL face-off in such a competitive environment. Gruschow scored the only goal in the game early on in the first period.
The second and third period had a lot of back and forth action between both teams and a few penalties. Beauts defender Sarah Casorso sent the NWHL’s leading goal scorer Madison Packer into the boards, which resulted in Casorso sitting out for a two-minute minor for boarding and a 10-minute game misconduct. Packer was helped off the ice shortly after, but fortunately returned for the second period.
“Yeah, I mean, I think I knew what I hurt, and it wasn’t my head, so, as far as I’m concerned, you’ve got 40 minutes left in the game and then you’ve got the whole summer off, so… I’ll be fine,” Packer said with a smile when asked about the incident after the game.
The atmosphere at the Barnabas Health Hockey House, the New Jersey Devils practice facility, was electrifying. The game was sold out in just a few days and the stands were packed with Riveters fans. The intensity of the game combined with the excitement and chants from their supporters made for a great Cup Final.
“I think it’s special. We had a great crowd; it gets loud,” said Packer. “The crowd’s on your side, that always helps, so maybe there’s a little bit of an advantage. But also it’s nice because now we get to celebrate with all the fans, friends, and family.”
After all the excitement of the Isobel Cup Final, fans are left with one question; what does the future hold for the league and the teams?
Judging by the turnout in Newark on Sunday, the fan support doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Both teams brought passion and emotion to the ice, and it would be a surprise to not see the majority of these players return for season four. However, on a larger scale, the CWHL finals were today as well, and it was almost like both leagues were competing for attention from fans. The sport would most likely be a lot better off if the four teams from the NWHL and the seven from the CWHL merged and had one sole women’s hockey league. Although it’s great to see the individual successes of each league, the faster they can join and become one, the better.
-Ruchi Patel & Jennifer Moglia