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Loss in overtime ends Whale’s bid to upset Riveters

Connecticut’s Kelly Babstock scored her third goal of the season Saturday night on a breakaway but it wasn’t enough as Metropolitan beat the Whale, 3-2 in overtime.

STAMFORD, January 27 – Madison Packer tipped in a shot from Courtney Burke with 32 seconds left in overtime to lift the undefeated Metropolitan Riveters to a 3-2 overtime win over the Connecticut Whale Saturday night in National Women’s Hockey League action at the Terry Connors Rink.

It spoiled an upset bid by the plucky Whale, who scored two goals in the first 3:55 of the game and have now dropped seven consecutive contests. On the other side, the Riveters (11-0) have now won a franchise-record 11 consecutive games.

“We’re going to get everyone’s best,” said Packer, who scored a pair of goals. “If we take a night off, you don’t know what will happen. We took it easy (in the) first (period). It was a gut check (for us). We don’t want to lose.”

Metropolitan still has a way to go to match Boston’s league-record of 16 consecutive wins to open the season. The Pride won their first 16 games a year ago.

The Whale (2-7-2), who picked up a point for the second consecutive week, were the first team to push the Riveters into overtime this season. The Whale dropped a 2-1 decision to Buffalo a week ago in a shootout. On Saturday against the Riveters, they scored on two of their first three shots with scores from Meghan Huertas and Kelly Babstock.

Connecticut’s Juana Baribeau (25) looks to make a pass in Saturday night’s NWHL game in Stamford.

But penalties hurt their cause. The Riveters scored a pair of power play goals in the first and second period to tie the game.

“Five-on-five they didn’t do anything with us,” Connecticut coach Ryan Equale said. “That has been our focus the last couple of weeks. What hurt us tonight was penalties and not being able to kill them off. That was the difference maker. It gave them an opportunity to get back into the game.”

Down by two goals, Metropolitan’s Kelly Koelzer redirected a shot from teammate Kiira Dosdall past Connecticut goalie Sydney Rossman for a power play goal to cut the lead to 2-1.

In the second period, Packer scored her first of the game just 30 seconds onto the power play to tie the game at 2-2 and it energized the Riveters, who spent much of the period in the Connecticut zone. Metropolitan outshot the Whale, 10-5 in the second period.

Connecticut regained their footing in the third period but were still outshot by the Riveters, 12-7. But Rossman was able to meet the challenge and the game went into overtime. The Whale were called for too many men on the ice with 2:56 left in the game but they were able to kill off the penalty

Connecticut’s Amanda Boulier had a nice shot on net with 12 seconds left off a nice pass from Babstock but Riveter goalie Kimberly Sass was up to the task.

Both teams had good opportunities in overtime and both had open nets as shooters pulled the goalies out of position.

The Whale are stunned when Metropolitan scored with 32 seconds left in overtime to earn a 3-2 victory in National Women’s Hockey League play Saturday night in Stamford.

Packer said the first two goals was a wakeup call for the Riveters. “We hung (Sass) out to dry,” Packer said. “It was a reality check for us on how much we rely on (goalie Katie Fitzgerald). (Sass) did really well.”

In her first professional start, Sass made 21 saves to earn the victory.

Meanwhile, the Whale continue to look for their first win since beating Boston in a shootout in November. Equale was proud of the effort.

“I’m really proud of the effort that the team put in,” Equale said. “The ability to play 60 minutes has shown for the past two weeks and we’re moving in the direction we want to even if the result isn’t what we wanted.”

In the previous three games with Metropolitan, the Whale were outscored 15-2 including a 6-1 loss on January 7 – the most lopsided regular season defeat in team history.

Rossman made 31 saves and had her old collegiate teammate Emma Greco from Quinnipiac was in front of her again on defense, making her professional debut. “We’re right there. These close games are what we need to get to the next level,” Rossman said. “Everyone keeps battling hard every day. They come to practice wanting to win and everyone is of the same mentality.”

The Whale return to the ice on Friday night when they travel to Boston to take on the Pride (2-6-3) at 6 p.m. at Warrior Arena – the Bruins’ practice facility.

Connecticut goalie Sydney Rossman makes a stop on Metropolitan’s Harrison Browne on a breakaway Saturday night in Stamford.

NOTES: Babstock’s breakaway goal was her third of the season. Huertas scored her second of the year and her second goal in the last three games. … The Whale celebrated the life of the late Mandi Schwartz, a player on the Yale women’s hockey team who lost her battle with leukemia at the age of 23 in April 2011. The Terry Conner Ice Rink, home of the Whale, hosted a “We Play for Mandi” night. Proceeds from tickets sales benefited the Mandi Schwartz Foundation.

Metropolitan 3, Connecticut 2, OT
At Stamford
Metropolitan (11-0)         1  1  0  1  — 3
Connecticut (2-7-2)         2  0  0  0  — 2
First period
Connecticut 1, Meghan Huertas, 3:05; Connecticut 2, Kelly Babstock (Huertas), 3:59; Metropolitan 1, Kelly Koelzer (Kiira Dosdall, Tatiana Rafter), 6:05 (pp); Penalties – Connecticut, interference, 5:24; Ashley Johnson (M) triping, 7:14; Juana Baribeau (CT), hooking; Jenny Ryan (M) body checking, 16:07
Second period
Metropolitan 2, Madison Packer (Alexa Gruschow, Courtney Burke), 4:03 (pp); Penalties: Sam Faber (CT) high sticking, 3:35; Kelly Nash (M), hooking, 8:11
Third period
No scoring; Penalties: Shannon Doyle (CT) tripping, 4:37; Harrison Browne (M) elbowing, 9:26; Emily Fluke (CT) unsportsmanlike conduct, 10:33; Michele Picard (M) roughing, 10:33; Connecticut, too many men on ice, 17:04
Overtime
Metropolitan 3, Madison Packer (Burke, Jenny Ryan), 4:28
Goalies: Connecticut, Sydney Rossman (L, 2-7-2) 34 shots, 31 saves; Metropolitan, Kimberly Sass (W, 1-0) 23 shots, 21 saves
Shots on goals: Connecticut 23 (9-5-7-2), Metropolitan 34 (9-10-12-3)

National Women’s Hockey League

W-L-OL Pts GF GA
Metropolitan 11-0-0 22 49 16
Buffalo 7-4-0 14 30 31
Boston 2-6-3 7 22 33
Connecticut 2-7-2 6 18 39
Saturday’s results
Buffalo 1, Boston 0, shootout
Metropolitan 3, Connecticut 2, overtime
Friday, February 2
Connecticut at Boston, 6 p.m.
Saturday, February 3
Metropolitan at Buffalo, 1 p.m
Saturday, February 10
NWHL All-Star game at Minnesota, 7:45 p.m.

 

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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