The day of reckoning is upon us…almost. Saturday at 7:30pm, the Buffalo Beauts will host the Metro Riveters at the banner-adorned HarborCenter. The last time these two faced off, there were more whistles than The Bridge Over the River Kwai. Yes, that’s a dated reference. Yes. It will stand. Google ™ it. It’s funny.
What is really at stake, aside from the possible rotator cuff tear of an official’s overused arm, is first place in the NWHL. A win for the Rivs will put them at 4-0 on the season, and sole possession of the top spot. A win for Buffalo gives the pair matching 3-1 records and further builds upon the rivalry that has been brewing for the last two seasons.
Here is what to watch for:
Oh! Say, Accursi!
The league’s leading goalscorer is as humble as she is talented. On last week’s National Woman’s Hockey Lowdown podcast, you heard Taylor talk about the support of her team and the importance of getting ‘The W,’ but Accursi is the hottest rookie Buffalo has had in its three seasons. Her 5 goals in 3 games is the hottest start for a Beaut, and she is sniping at an incredible 41.6 percent success rate. She was one of only two Beauts to beat Brick Wall Fitzy (Katie Fitzgerald) in the last matchup, and will look to extend her scoring streak and boost the team to another mark in the win category.
Fitz gives ‘em tantrums
With a 1.33 goals against average and a .948 save percentage, there is little question that Katie Fitzgerald has been a revelation for the Riveters in net. It helps that coach Chad Wiseman’s stingy defense is allowing the fewest shots per game in the league (just shy of 26,) but Fitzgerald has been shutting teams down on the regular over the course of her 18-game career.
The Beauts are the only team to hang two on Fitzy this season, and it will likely take more than that to beat the Riveters on Saturday night. It’s not enough to get her moving laterally; Buffalo will have to force Fitzgerald to give up bad rebounds, and be there to cash them in.
Evening things up
On the flip side, Buffalo’s goaltender Amanda Leveille has had some struggles early in her first season as the Beauts’ number one. She knows it, too; admitting as much in her post-game comments after last week’s 5-3 win against Boston. “Ideally, I don’t want to give up three goals…I like two or less…”
The Riveters put six by Lev in their first meeting of the season, and what is more important is that most came at even strength. On the penalty kill, Leveille and her teammates have been the best in the league, allowing only three goals on 21 tries. The team needs to shore things up five-on-five if they’re going to beat the Riveters and take a share of first place.
Tickets are available for the primetime matchup. Come watch the Beauts defend the crown, or tune in on NWHL.zone for our call of the game.