The NWHL kicks off its second season on October 7. The Buffalo Beauts, who finished the season competing in the Isobel Cup final series, will face the same opponent that ended their season and stole the Cup – the Boston Pride.
It has been an intense offseason for the Beauts. The team turned over more than 50 percent of its roster and coaches, and completed their new look with a fresh set of sweaters.
One of the new faces on the team is practice goaltender Kelsey Neumann. A Buffalo transplant, Neumann played her college hockey in upstate New York. These days, though, she’s Coach Kelsey in the Buffalo Bisons youth hockey organization, taking her place beside former Beauts coach and Olympic medalist Shelley Looney.
Her passion for the sport has been a continuing thread in her life, and her abilities have given her an opportunity to play professional hockey in the city she has made her own.
Neumann saw her first ice wearing a Beauts jersey in a preseason tune-up on September 25 against the Buffalo Junior Sabres. She took the net for the third period, and played well coming cold after 40 minutes on the bench. She easily had the best save of the night, flashing leather on a breakaway to keep the score a little more respectable.
She remembered the play very vividly. “I was really just watching the puck. It was really about watching the puck all the way in, and if it hit me and rebounded, I had to make sure I was ready to react to it,” she recalled. “He didn’t give me much – I was anticipating that he’d get in close and try to pull a move. I was waiting for that deke. After making the glove save, I felt great.’
That save elicited shrieks of joy from the corner of the rink, where the Neumann’s team was watching their coach do what she does best. “It made me a little emotional,” she said. “They were sitting still and actually watching the game. I could see them running around before the period started, so it was nice to see them sit and watch…and cheer.”
The young netminder is getting used to the speed of the professional game. “Compared to college, I felt that it was a lot faster. I’ve been playing women’s B in North Carolina, so obviously this is a lot faster of a game. It reminded me of playing boys’ hockey when I was young.”
She didn’t let the speed get to her, though. “I felt at home. A little nervous, but at home.”
It was a memorable experience, and one Neumann knows she and the team can improve on. “I should have played out of my net a little more,” she said of her own game, and in regard to the team, she stated, “I think communication is going to be a big key there. I think that as long as we stick to the same plan, and we’re all being vocal – communicating where we’re going with the puck, and where we want it to go, I think we’re going to have a great season.”
Ultimately, she was proud of the Beauts’ performance. “Overall, though, I was really happy with how I played and how the team played. We have had some practices, but not all together [with the whole team.] I was impressed with how composed we were – we didn’t let our emotions get the best of us.”
It was a stiff introduction for players like Neumann. The team appears to have shaken off the rust, and has since played a dominating game against the Brock University Badgers. Everyone seems anxious to get the season underway.
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