Riveters Win Championship; Devils Sign Goalie Cam Johnson

The Metropolitan Riveters are the champions of the NWHL. They defeated the Buffalo Beauts 1-0 yesterday at RWJ Barnabas Hockey House in Newark to win the Isobel Cup – their first in franchise history.

In front of a sellout crowd, according to Marisa Ingemi of ESPN.com, the Riveters got a goal from Alexa Gruschow and a shutout performance from goaltender Katie Fitzgerald (who was named MVP according to Ingemi). According to Dan Rice of NWHL.zone – the league’s official website – she made 28 saves. She was able to stare down Buffalo goalie Amanda Leveille in what was a classic goalie’s duel. The Beauts were trying for their second title, which would have made them the first NWHL team to repeat.

The Riveters won their first championship in the league’s third season of existence. The Boston Pride won the first year.

Ingemi said that in addition to the live sellout at the Hockey House, “the livestream broadcast of the game exceeded 45,000 live viewers.” The Riveters’ Miye D’Oench was quoted by Ingemi as saying “It was amazing – the crowd was bumping. We appreciate every single person who came. It was such a great atmosphere. This is what women’s hockey should be like.”

Coach Chad Wiseman was quoted by Ingemi as saying “I don’t know how to express how that feels. From the first season at the Aviator [a recreational sports complex on Long Island] with no dressing room throwing our stuff all around, and now we’re playing at an NHL facility.”

Ingemi said “for all the players have been through, from playing in a second-bit rink to winning the title with the support and backing of an NHL club, the New Jersey Devils, (winning the championship) symbolizes progress.”

Congratulations to the Metropolitan Riveters on their well-deserved Isobel Cup championship. Let’s hope their NHL brothers can do something similar later this spring.

In Devils related news, the team announced yesterday that they have signed goalie Cam Johnson to a one-year entry-level contract.

The contract kicks in in 2018-19. He was a college free agent (just like Keith Kinkaid – who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of college) “who just completed his senior season at the University of North Dakota” according to the Devils’ press release.

The press release said that he “will travel to Binghamton and sign an AHL amateur tryout contract with the club on Tuesday.”

The 23 year-old Johnson played 102 games at North Dakota, going 56-26-12 in his four seasons there. He had 12 shutouts and is North Dakota’s “all-time leader in career goals-against average (2.10), ranks second in career shutouts (12), fourth in wins (56) and career save percentage (.916).” In NCAA playoff/NCHC conference playoff games, he is a career 10-3.

The press release stated that his best season was 2015-16. That season, he had career highs in wins (24), shutouts (five), goals against average (1.66) and save percentage (.935) in 34 games played. That was also the year UND won the NCAA National Championship. Personally, he was named to the NCHC Second All-Star Team, NCAA West Second All-American Team and NCAA All-Tournament Team. The press release notes that he was named to the NCHC All-Academic Team all four of his college seasons.

The 6-foot, 1-inch, 200-pound native of Troy, Michigan played with the Fargo Force and Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL for two seasons prior to moving to the University of North Dakota.

Devils Win Will Butcher Sweepstakes

Well, the Devils defense just got a little bit better.

The team announced today that they have agreed to terms with University of Denver standout defenseman Will Butcher on a two year, entry-level contract worth an annual salary of $925,000 according to the team’s website.

The 22-year-old native of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin captained the Pioneers to the 2017 NCAA national championship, winning the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey in the process. The Devils’ press release also states that he was “nominated for the award after the 2015-16 season” as well. That season he finished the year third amongst defensemen in scoring in the nation with nine goals and 23 assists.

This past season, he was second in scoring amongst defensemen with seven goals and 30 assists. The highly touted prospect was also named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team, was named the NCHC’s Best Offensive Defenseman, was named to the NCHC First All-Star Team, was named the NCHC Player of the Year, USA Hockey’s College Player of the Year and was named NCAA West First Team All-American.

In addition to all of that, he also won a silver medal at the 2013 IIHF under-18 World Championship representing the US and gold at the 2012 IIHF under-18 World Championship.

The press release also states that the 5-foot, 10-inch, 190-pound blueliner spent 2011 to 2013 with the US National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan and that he played alongside Travis Zajac’s brother Nolan at Denver.

Butcher was taken in the fifth round (123rd overall) by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2013 draft and wanted to sign with the Avs, leaving college early.

When the Avalanche objected, feeling that he needed more time to develop in college, he finished his four years at Denver and then refused to sign with his NHL club, remembering that they would not let him turn pro early.

With that, he became a free agent on August 15 and the Devils won the bidding war. Butcher essentially comes to the Devils as a free asset and replaces Alexander Kerfoot… who signed with Colorado a few days ago.

While we will still have to see how his skills translate from the college game to the NHL level, it is important to remember the shape that the Devils defense is in right now. There is actually a good chance that he could make the team right out of training camp. But at the same time, he might need some seasoning in Binghamton to adjust to the pro game.

Time will tell on that one, but for once, the Devils were in on one of the highly touted free agent signings and were able to get the fish reeled in. Which should be enough to raise the hopes of New Jersey fans just a little bit.

Kudos to Ray Shero for that alone.