New York Riveters Review: Part One

(The New York Riveters during their Inaugural Season)

The New York Riveters are one of the four founding franchises of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). In just two short seasons of existence so far, the Riveters have already made their mark on the hockey world. From players signings to talented rookies and some historic draft picks there’s a lot to talk about. In part one of our in-depth look at the New York Riveters, we begin with some history.

When the formation of the NWHL was announced in March of 2015, the New York Riveters joined the Boston Pride, Connecticut Whale and Buffalo Beauts as the “Original Four.” Their symbol is molded after the famous cultural icon, Rosie the Riveter and their colors are red, silver, navy blue and white. The team has played their home games at the Barnabas Health Hockey Center at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey since last season. They formerly played their home games at the Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn, New York. Their original general manger was NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan but she handed over GM duties to head coach Chad Wiseman prior to their second season in the league.

At the inaugural NWHL draft in 2015, the Riveters won the lottery and were granted the first overall and thus first ever pick in NWHL history. They selected Alexandra Carpenter of Boston College with the very first pick. Carpenter never played for the Riveters as she was traded to the Boston Pride shortly after being selected. Nevertheless, the Riveters approached the inaugural season with high hopes and ended up signing key players like defenseman Ashley Johnston (who was elected Captain in her first season), goaltender Nana Fujimoto, forward and All-Star Morgan Fritz-Ward and forward and all-star Madison Packer. With some solid players signed and ready to lead the team, the Riveters were ready for their inaugural season.

Over the course of the regular season the Riveters of course had many firsts. The first goal in Riveters history was scored by Brooke Ammerman. Their first win was on November 15, 2015 against the Boston Pride. Fujimoto became the first Riveters goaltender to earn a win. The first hat trick in Riveters history was scored by Meghan Fardelmann.

The Riveters ended the 2015/16 regular season with a 4-12-2. They finished last out of the four teams in the NWHL and were ultimately swept in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual champions, the Boston Pride, led by Hilary Knight. For those who don’t know, Knight is a staple on the US Women’s National Team. Although the Riveters had a disappointing first season in the league, it meant they had an opportunity to select first overall yet again. This time they wouldn’t trade the player they selected and they made even more history in the process.

With the first pick in the 2016 NWHL Draft, the New York Riveters selected defenseman Kelsey Koelzer from the Princeton Tigers of the NCAA. Koelzer is a dynamic defenseman and will be a great player for the Riveters for years to come. She’s been a finalist for the player of the year, best defensemen of the year and was named the 2016 Ivy League Player of the Year. Koelzer also made history as the first African-American born player to be selected first overall in either the NWHL or the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). Koelzer only played one game for the Riveters last season but will play her first full season in 2017/18.

The signings were fast and furious. They signed Amanda Kessel, sister of Pittsburgh Penguins star Phil Kessel and down right amazing hockey player in her own right, to the largest deal in NWHL history: one year, $26,000. They signed goaltender Katie Fitzgerald to replace the departed Fujimoto. Fitzgerald would go on to win goaltender of the year. One of their most important signings turned out to be undrafted Boston University forward Rebecca Russo. Russo won the fastest skater competition during the season and became a force for the Riveters offensively. She also made the all-star game during her first season.

The Riveters had a much more successful second season in the league. They finished with a record of 8-7-1 and began to show what kind of team they could become. The year of growth combined with the new players on the team worked well and they doubled their win total from the previous season. They also had the largest comeback franchise history against the Connecticut Whale.

The team faced the Buffalo Beauts in round one of the Isobel Cup playoffs but were ultimately eliminated in the first round again. The future however is very bright.

Make sure to tune in to the Full Tilt Rangers Radio Podcast as we’ll have star NY Riveters forward Rebecca Russo on this Monday August 14th to talk all things Riveters. Part two of our Riveters Review/Preview will be out on Monday as well with what fans can look forward to as the offseason comes to a close and training camp begins. Also, we will be spotlighting Rebecca Russo in a follow-up post, be sure to check that out as well!

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