Rebecca Russo Leads Metropolitan Riveters to Third Place in the PHF

Rebecca Russo

The new Premier Hockey League season started on November 6 and a lot has happened since then. The Toronto Six are currently undefeated and the Boston Pride lead the standings with four wins in six games. However, a team that has been playing above all their expectations is the Metropolitan Riveters, with star players Madison Packer and Rebecca Russo leading the way to a good start.

Not many people had a lot of faith in the Riveters for the 2021-22 season. In a league that is starting to get a lot younger and faster, the team has an older (but more experienced) roster that has been playing together for a while now. Nevertheless, they’ve had a great start to the new season, getting a 2-1-1 record in the first four games.

Their start is surprising, considering the team hasn’t played since last season in February. They played three games before having to withdraw from the NWHL bubble after a COVID outbreak on their team. Now, the Riveters made a few changes that have been really good for the team — goalie Brooke Wolejko being one of them. But the real star of the show has been Rebecca Russo.

Rebecca Russo Leading Riveters, PHF in Points

Russo is currently leading the league with nine points in four games and has been playing tremendously well. She’s been one of their top players since joining the team in 2016. In 57 games played so far in her career, the 27-year-old has 22 goals and 52 points. This season, Rebecca Russo has already overcome her 2018-19 season, when she scored eight points in 16 games, proving she is more than ready for a big rebound season. After a 5-3 win against the Buffalo Beauts, the player seemed happy with her team and herself, getting a two-goal night with an empty netter that sealed the win.

“It was really nice to get the empty-net goal to secure the win and help us get back in the win column. We came here yesterday after being away from this rink for so long and I thought we had it, but Buffalo came back and scored four goals. So today it was really important for us to get that fifth goal on the board. I’m really happy about how we came back from a loss last night and came back today and got the win.”

Oh Captain, My Captain

Madison Packer, their captain, is also having a big season, having scored seven points in four games to rank second on the team and tied for third in the league. Packer also ranks second in the league for most points all-time, with 92 in 91 games since joining the league in 2015. The captain was also needing a rebound season after not getting into the scoresheet for the three games played in the 2020-21 regular season. Now, she’s almost two points per game and is playing amazingly as Madison Packer has always done.

“I think we just had an attitude shift. I think everyone’s starting to figure it out,” Packer answered on her offensive outburst. “We forget that this group is a new group. We had last season, but we only played three games in the bubble and so we just have to be patient. I think right now it’s mental, not so much physical. The more that we just fine-tune things, I think the more success we’ll have.”

Goaltending Shining for the Riveters

Another big factor for the team has been their goaltending. The Riveters signed Brooke Wolejko in the off-season to share the net with Sonjia Shelly, who’s been with them since 2020. Shelly started in three of the four games, having a 1-1-1 record with a .871 save percentage and a 3.70 goals-against average. Wolejko started in Sunday’s game, recording her first game and win of the season. She ended the game with a .906 save percentage with a 2.90 goals-against average. Both goaltenders have been stellar for the Riveters, going above and beyond to help the team get wins – and steal a point when things get hard.

What Needs To Change

This new season is a lot different than others. The league has a new name, they now have a new broadcast deal with ESPN+, their salary cap increased and the biggest one is a 60-game regular season. That means there’s a lot to happen for the Riveters as they’ve only played six percent of the season. However, a few adjustments need to happen as they continue playing.

A big problem for the team in the past three games has been holding onto leads. They open the score and go up to a two- or three-goal advantage only to get comfortable and blow it. It happened against the Connecticut Whale in game two and again against the Buffalo Beauts in game three. Both led to losses, the first was a 5-3 loss (they were leading 3-0 going into the third) and a 4-3 loss in overtime.

The offence is clearly not the problem but when you’re up 3-0, everyone on the team needs to work to avoid the other team scoring. It’s shared blame. Those were really tough blows on the team but their win on Sunday against the Beauts was proof that they’re learning from their mistakes. Coach Ivo Mocek seemed happy with the bounce back.

“What I love about this team and organization is that we’re always able to bounce back and we just did it again today. So big character win. The biggest difference was that we were just being way more consistent than yesterday. We didn’t have too many weak moments, we were just focused and sharp, physically and mentally.”

Red (Riveters Version)

As the PHF starts to get more attention and fans, the teams are getting more opportunities to show some style. The Riveters went through a logo remodel, still rocking Rosie the Riveter but this time she’s made of steel. Now, they presented their new third jerseys and it looks amazing! The team wore them for the first time in their second game against the Beauts, looking fresh and burning red. The new jersey is available for purchase on the team’s website.

The Riveters get back on the ice on December 11 and 12, going on a road trip to face the Toronto Six at the York Canlan Ice Arena.

Main Photo:
© Kate Frese


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.