The Riveters have seen this film before, and they didn’t like the ending.
After looking like one of the dominant teams at the then-NWHL’s Lake Placid bubble in January, the New Jersey-based Riveters went home early after a COVID breakout that eventually affected the entire league.
In the rebranded Premier Hockey Federation, much of the Riveters roster, which was announced this week, looks strikingly similar in some areas, with a few glaring overhauls.
What stays the same is the part of the roster many expected to undergo the most of that overhaul. Instead, many veteran Riveter skaters are elsewhere.
Defender Saroya Tinker, who was a finalist for the league’s Defender of the Year award as a rookie, left for Toronto. Fan-favorite goalie Tera Hofmann joined her.
Kate Leary left for a coaching job in New England. Rebecca Morse, a veteran Riv, headed to the Whale. Tatiana Shatalova had been announced as a returner after she missed last season, but she was absent from the roster and is going to play in Russia. Veteran defender Kiira Dosdall-Arena also isn’t back, and it’s unclear if she’ll sign elsewhere.
Allie Olnowich and Leila Kilduff are the only returning defenders on the roster.
Back are Kelly Babstock and Rebecca Russo, likely as top line forwards, after many questioned if they’d be back with the Riveters, or in the PHF at all following fallout from Lake Placid. The Riveters hadn’t announced Babstock’s return until they released the entire roster on social media Monday.
New general manager Anya Packer, previously a player with the Whale and then the NWHLPA’s director, had a heck of a challenge in front of her. Not only are the Rivs looking to rebound from a disastrous ending to what should have been a thrilling campaign, but they’re looking to earn back some fan support as well.
“I have a little extra fuel for the fire after the way things ended last season,” Riveters captain Madison Packer said in the team’s release. “Every year the league gets a little better, and the bar is raised. This year is no different. Our team has lots of speed, lots of skill and some kids who can really shoot the puck. We have a tremendous group of athletes in the room who are also great people away from the rink. I am excited to go to work with all, and I’m looking forward to learning from the players around me and making a deep run.”
Kristen Barbara comes in from Toronto to replace Morse as a veteran on a rebuilding blue line, with Rachel Ade joining from Connecticut and Rose Alleva from Minnesota, who is on a professional tryout agreement. Lenka Čurmová signed after playing in Buffalo last season and helps make up for the deficit on the blue line.
The overhaul on defense is one thing; it was somewhat expected when it became clear Morse wasn’t coming back and Tinker departed. Aside from Leary, who became an integral part of the Riveters offense since she signed in 2018, much of the forward group is what they brought to Lake Placid.
There’s been a lot of talk about a culture change for the Riveters since the end of last season. A lot of players have left, more than any other PHF team this offseason so far. The roster looks a lot different in many ways, and the similarities to the Lake Placid season aren’t the ones many expected in the wake of those culture change conversations.
College hockey kicks off
College hockey begins this weekend, and the USCHO poll was announced this week. The top 10 teams to begin the season are:
- Wisconsin — defending national champions
- Northeastern — defending national runners-up
- Ohio State
- Minnesota Duluth
- Boston College
Clarkson, Harvard, Penn State and Providence also received votes.
Penn State and (7) Boston College opened the schedule Thursday night, and Friday is highlighted by matches between (1) Wisconsin vs. Merrimack, and (4) Colgate vs. Mercyhurst.
Around the PHF
The Boston Pride signed its international draft pick Wednesday, inking Evelina Raselli to a contract to become the first Swiss player in league history.
She played for Switzerland this year at the World Championships in Calgary, where she scored a goal.
The Minnesota Whitecaps finally began announcing signings, including the return of top forwards Allie Thunstrom, Audra Morrison and Jonna Curtis. Right-handed forward Taylor May signed with Toronto, too.