New York Spoils Boston Pride’s Home Opener, as Rivalry Intensifies

Riveters goaltender Nana Fujimoto delivered yet another 40-plus save effort to steal a win for New York.

Photo by Kyle Clauss

Photo by Kyle Clauss

Just a few weeks into the National Women’s Hockey League’s inaugural season, it’s safe to say the league already has its first bonafide rivalry. And between its New York and Boston franchises, no less—imagine that.

After the Boston Pride spoiled the Riveters’ home opener in Brooklyn last month, New York finally got its revenge Sunday afternoon, sneaking out of the Harvard Bright-Landry Center with a 3-2 win in the Pride’s long-awaited homecoming, despite getting outshot 43-14. The game took a physical tone early and never let up, something that’s become a hallmark of these two teams.

“The games, quite candidly, have been chippy down there,” Pride head coach Bobby Jay said. “There’s no doubt there’s a rivalry, which is great—great for the league, healthy for us to battle. But for sure, there’s some edge to these games.”

“I’m familiar with a lot of the players on that team,” co-captain Brianna Decker said. “I either played with them in college or against them. And they play the same way they did in college: just physical. They’re probably one of the most physical teams in the league.”

The Pride spent much of the first period on their heels after two goals from Wisconsin alums Brooke Ammerman and Madison Packer in the first three minutes put New York ahead early. Boston struggled to move the puck out of the defensive zone, as the Riveters’ bruising style of play forced one turnover after another. A power play goal from fellow Badger Hilary Knight midway through the period cut the deficit in half, only for  New York’s Meghan Fardelmann to answer seconds later.

“We had a sloppy first half of the first period and we just dug ourselves a hole and we couldn’t get out of it,” Knight said. “They always bring the physicality, so it’s just something we’re going to get accustomed to.”

“We’ve got to play a full 60, but move our feet the entire time. They can’t keep up with us then,” Decker said. “We weren’t pleased with our first period of play. Obviously we tend to get a little frustrated at times. I took a stupid penalty, other people not moving their feet out there, not moving the puck quick. The last two periods, we definitely outplayed them and if we brought a full 60, I think the outcome could’ve been different.”

Boston thundered back to start the second, with Amanda Pelkey sneaking a power play goal past Nana Fujimoto near the two-minute mark. A spat of penalty trouble kept the Pride cycling in the Riveters’ end, but ultimately failing to emerge with an equalizer. A disallowed goal kicked by Jordan Smelker kept New York’s 3-2 lead intact.

Fujimoto stood tall even into the third, even as the Pride continued creating traffic in front of the Sapporo, Japan native. Despite a few chances late, the Riveters would hold on to win their second straight against the Pride, and the second that would require more than 40 saves from Fujimoto.

“The thing is, it’s not one goalie at that point in the game. It turns into six goalies,” Knight said. “We just have to capitalize on our opportunities sooner—beginning of the game versus at the end of the game. We just ran out of time.”

“I think one thing we need to do is get our shots through,” Decker said. “We’re kind of getting it past that first layer, their wingers and whatnot, but we’re hitting their D right in front of the net or she’s making a nice save. Definitely need to take the eyes away from her though, and I think eventually we’ll find the back of the net. And it’s just moving her laterally.”

After the game, the Pride signed autographs for a line of fans that stretched halfway around the arena, and included girl’s and women’s hockey players of all ages, all proudly wearing their own team’s gear. The team hopes to deliver them a win next week at Bright-Landry, when they host the Connecticut Whale for the first time.

“Obviously it’s not fun losing any time,” Decker said. “I appreciate a lot of the fans that were out there today, and I hope they return even though the outcome wasn’t what we wanted. It was great to have all the support from the Boston area.”

“It’s fun to have a home crowd,” Knight smiled. “I just wish they were a little more rowdy, but we’ll work on it.”