The start of the new National Women’s Hockey League season got underway last weekend and saw a shock to kick off this year’s competition. As new girls to the league, the Minnesota Whitecaps stunned the reigning champions the Metropolitan Riveters with back to back home wins.
The Whitecaps, who have previously iced in the now-defunct Western Women’s Hockey League between 2004 and 2011, saw the new franchise making their debut in the NWHL at the home of the Minnesota Wild Men’s practice facility the TRIA Rink in St.Paul, Minnesota. Both games against the Riveters saw sell-out crowds amidst the dawning of a new era for Women’s Hockey in Minnesota.
Saturday night’s game saw the home side overcoming any opening night nerves they may have had as they shutout the Riveters 4-0. Whitecaps forward Katie McGovern scored the historic first-ever goal for the new Minnesota outfit on the power-play after Minnesota native Jonna Curtis skated freely into the Riveters zone, before then playing a pass back towards McGovern whose shot got by Katie Fitzgerald in the Mets goal for a 1-0 lead with left in the period 6.31
Team USA forward Hannah Brandt then doubled the lead for the hosts early in the second period, after Lee Stecklein threw the puck on net and saw her shot blocked by a Riveters defensemen but went only as far as Amanda Boulier who then found Brandt at the front of the net and she managed to turn it home for 2-0.
In the third period, it saw Kate Schipper firing high past Fitzgerald for 3-0, while late on saw Kendall Coyne Schofield turn from provider to scorer with an empty-netter to seal a stunning 4-0 shutout victory over the Metropolitan Riveters.
The next night saw a much closer game between the two sides, as Amanda Boulier scored her first on the season with a bolt from the blue line that beat Katie Fitzgerald and found the top corner. Jenny Ryan then responded for the visitors on the power-play to score their first goal of the season and tie the game up late in the first as the sides went into the break all square.
Minnesota’s Jonna Curtis then scored the go-ahead goal with 8.09 left in the second period, after Allie Thunstrom spotted the movement and played Curtis in on the far side and saw her taking the goal well for a 2-1 scoreline.
Hannah Brandt then doubled her tally on the weekend with a rising wrist shot that beat the goalie for 3-1, as the Whitecaps completed the double over the league champions on what was a remarkable weekend for the new franchise.
Meanwhile, in Connecticut, the hometown Whalers were harpooned 4-0 by the finalists in last year’s NWHL final in the Buffalo Beauts at the Terry Conners Ice Rink. The line of Madeline Elia, Dani Cameranesi and Hayley Scamurra had the Whalers in all sorts of trouble throughout the first period and was no surprise when they fell behind.
Buffalo took the lead when a Dani Cameranesi pass found Madeline Elia who then put in at the back post for a 1-0 goal lead before the trio linked up again soon after, this time it saw Hayley Scamurra having her shot blocked and the bounce falling nicely for Elia and the Beauts opening scorer made it 2-0 after the first.
Play in the second was a scoreless affair but did see some physical activity between Juls Iafallo and Cyndey Roesler tangling, as Roesler took exception to Buffalo’s Iafallo taking an extra couple of whacks at the goalie who was trying to cover the puck and Iafallo teammate Dani Camaranesi, gave out a couple of licks herself, but saw only the antagonists spending time in the box.
Hayley Scamurra scored a stunning goal to put the Beauts 3-0 up, thanks to some beautiful stickhandling skills by the Buffalo forward before Scamurra was at it again, later on, to score her second of the game to make it a four-nothing contest and have the Buffalo Beauts opening up their season with a win.