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Two rookies from Harvard playing big roles for Riveters

New York Riveters General Manager Chad Wiseman wanted a faster, more talented team after a disappointing first season. As a result, he signed twelve first-year NWHL players to his roster and practice squad. Which means that the Riveters are playing the most rookies in the league.

The Riveters have six rookie skaters and two rookie goaltenders on their roster. So, it was clear that New York would be depending on its youth long before the puck dropped for the 2016-17 season.

And now, injuries have only added to the pressure that the Riveters’ youngest players have to perform.

It’s been a rough first three weeks of the season for Wiseman’s team. But the potential shown by the rookies brings the promise of better hockey after the Four Nations Cup break. Two rookies off to strong starts were acquired in big offseason trades. And, interestingly enough, they both played their college hockey at Harvard.

Miye D’Oench

D’Oench joined the Riveters as the result of the biggest and most surprising trade of the offseason and, arguably, in the NWHL’s short history. Wiseman acquired D’Oench and $2,000 in cap space in exchange for Alex Carpenter, the Olympian they had chosen as the first pick in the 2015 NWHL Draft.

Needless to say, D’Oench had some big expectations tied to her name before she even signed with the club.

But the diminutive winger wasted no time in winning the hearts of Riveters fans. D’Oench scored two goals (both at even strength) in her first two games in the NWHL. One of those goals was the team’s first of the season scored on Oct. 8 against the Pride. Furthermore, that goal tied the game just 66 seconds after Carpenter, the player D’Oench was dealt for, scored for the Boston Pride.

The New York City kid started the season on New York’s top line after an impressive showing in the preseason. D’Oench has played a major role in the Riveters’ offense, and her nose for the net has been especially relevant. She is the only Riveter with more than one goal thus far this season. Her nine shots on net in three games are outpaced only by Madison Packer.

D’Oench’s hustle and ability to get shots on net make her stick a great target for her smooth-passing linemates. Amanda Kessel and Janine Weber have shown some chemistry with her in a very short amount of time. Both forwards know to look for her in the slot.

And as D’Oench proved in her four years with the Crimson, she knows how to score goals in front of the net.

Michelle Picard

Picard is one of the three rookie defensemen that the Riveters added in the offseason. Picard also joined the Riveters in a big trade. Wiseman gave up the rights to Whale rookie sensation Haley Skarupa in order to acquire the Olympian. He then signed her for $17,500, which made Picard the highest-paid rookie not named Kessel on the team.

Wiseman pushed his chips to the center of the table because he believed Picard was an elite defender. And the early returns look promising. Picard has proven to be an ideal partner for the risk-taking, puck-moving Kaleigh Fratkin. Their games appear to complement each other very well and they have been eating up a lot of minutes as the Riveters’ top pairing.

Picard shines in the defensive zone and playing off the puck. She is adept at reading plays and getting where she needs to be to take away a passing lane or to disrupt a shot with a quick stick check. Her high work rate and reliability make her a great fit for Wiseman’s defensive system.

In Picard’s first three games in the NWHL she has registered six shots and picked up one assist. And she has achieved that despite seeing very little power play time on a team that regularly struggles to put shots on net. So, it’s safe to say that Picard is a lot more than just a “stay at home defender.” But it can be easy to overlook her offensive upside on a team with some exceptional offensive defenders.

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