Riveters’ win show they can match Boston’s level

EAST RUTHERFORD -- Nothing has gone right for the Metropolitan Riveters this season.

But on this Friday night, everything came together from the offense to defense to goaltending, and it resulted in a Riveters’ 6-2 victory over two-time Premier Hockey Federation Isobel Cup champion and this year’s Cup favorite Boston Pride at The Rink at American Dream. It was only the Pride’s third loss of the season after their four-game winning streak was snapped.

“It’s been a long-time coming,” first-year Riveters coach Venla Hovi said after the Riveters earned their seventh win of the season. “We have had pairs of good periods in the last few games. We knew it would be a process and everything would come together eventually. We have had a lot of new players who had to learn new habits in American hockey.”

After the home team matched the Pride’s play to earn a 1-1 tie in the first period, the Riveters capitalized on that good form by scoring three goals and dominating the time of puck possession with a 12-5 edge in shots in the second period, and then never looked back.

Just 2:26 into the second period, Livingston native Kendall Cornine scored off a Hayley Lunny feed with Taylor Marchin dishing the puck to Lunny, giving the Riveters their first lead of the game and their first goal of that period.

“We have been playing together recently,” Cornine said about playing in a new line with Lunny and Marchin that helped her score her second goal of the season.” We were beginning to do good things in practice and we were able to be familiar with each other. We have been feeding off each in knowing what to do with the puck.”

The Riveters took a 3-1 lead at the 10:17 mark when Amanda Pelkey (first star of the game) scored on Anna Kilponen’s deflection.

Mintu Tuominen scored a power-play goal with a one-timer off Kennedy Ganser’s pass to complete the Riveters’ three-goal second period.

As great as the Riveters played in the second period, it was the first period that set the tone for the victory.

After the Pride took a 1-0 lead in the first period on Loren Gabel’s goal, the Riveters responded two minutes later by tying the game on Fanni Garat-Gasparics forcing a turnover and then firing a wrister past Pride goaltender Lovisa Selander.

The Riveters did not let the Pride be in their zone in the latter half of the first period, and that defensive mindset carried over for the rest of the game.

“For the first 30 minutes, we were doing the right things in playing defense and paying attention to detail,” Cornine said of the Riveters’ first period. “We knew we would play well by sticking with the game plan. We were confident.”

The defense no doubt made Riveters goaltender Rachel McQuigge’s job easy.

This is not to say McQuigge got by. Far from it. She made 23 saves, including nine of them in the first period to limit the Pride to only one goal. It was good enough for her to be the second star of the game.

It was her first game back in the nets after a lower-body injury that sidelined her for awhile.

“I was excited to go when I was told yesterday (Thursday) that I would play,” McQuigge said about playing through the adrenaline in her return. “I was happy to go play behind the team. I was going to come out ready”

She may have been too excited when she gave up the first goal on the Pride’s first shot.

The original plan was to have McQuigge play next week.

“I figured she would watch all week, but she practiced so well this week that I decided to play her,” Hovi said about her goaltender.

Hovi’s hunch proved to be the right one.

“She was excellent,” Hovi said of McQuigge’s night.

Kelly Babstock scored two of Riveters’ goals in the third period, and it was good enough for her to get the third star of the game.

Sammy Davis scored the Pride’s second goal of the game in the third period. It cut the Pride’s deficit to 4-2 prior to Babstock putting the finishing touches.

As frustrating as this season has been for the Riveters, they still have a shot to make the playoffs if they can win five straight games. It starts on Sunday when they play a team that is chasing a playoff spot in the Connecticut Whale at the International Skating Center of Connecticut.

“I am proud to be part of their journey,” Hovi said of dealing with 15 new players playing together. “We have great people. We have been building a culture of hard work and process all year.”

You can read Leslie's Jersey Sporting News columns on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.

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