Round three of Beauts vs Rivs couldn’t have come at a worse time for a sinking Buffalo team. After starting the season winning two of the first three games, the Beauts have lost two straight, including the most recent loss to a previously winless Boston Pride.
The 3-2 defeat at the hands of Boston had to be a bitter pill to swallow for the Beauts, who are again tied for second place with the Connecticut Whale. A win would have put them alone in the runner-up seat, and only two games behind a rocketing Riveters club. There seems to be no stopping Metro, but Buffalo needs to take care of business if the team hopes to gain any ground in the standings. Sunday afternoon’s matchups could end up turning the tables entirely on the NWHL – a Boston win against the Whale would put the Pride in second, with the Beauts possibly falling to last.
Here’s what you need to know.
Shots shots shotsshotsshots: In Buffalo’s two wins, the Beauts have outshot their opponents by an average of nearly 13 per game. In the three losses, the team has been outshot by 14, on average. The Riveters themselves account for 35 more shots in their two wins against Buffalo.
If the team is going to finally beat the Riveters, they are going to have to shoot early and often. Fitzgerald will give up rebounds – it’s the most consistent way that Buffalo has scored on the league’s leading netminder. Shoot low, clean up the garbage. It’s simple and effective, and is the secret to winning this game.
Lock it down: Goaltender Amanda Leveille has faced more shots than any other goalie in the league, and has more saves than any other as well. The shell-shocked backstop needs her defense to play sound and secure in front of her. Shot suppression should be a key component to Buffalo’s strategy going into Sunday night.
The defense also needs to be aware of what is happening around them. Last time MET came to town, three different goalscorers scored on a set play. The puck came to the slot and a quick pass to Lev’s glove side was easily buried. There wasn’t a blue sweater in sight. This was something the coaches stressed before the game, according to Ric Seiling’s postgame comments. It cannot happen again.
Protect your goalie. Block the shots. Give Lev a chance.
Running on empty: Buffalo’s best period has been the first; the team has outscored opponents 6-3 in the opening frame. Hot starts are fantastic – especially for a team that has been historically bad in the first period. Unfortunately, it goes downhill fast from there. Opponents lead 7-6 in the second and a tragic 10-3 in the third.
The Riveters, on the other hand, have outscored opponents 10-2 in the final period. They are a team built on speed and endurance and Buffalo is going to have to find a way to not only set the pace, but maintain the pace, for an entire 60 minutes. Of course it’s a cliché spouted from the mouths of everyone to ever step onto the ice, but it is absolutely true. In both previous matchups, the winner of the third period was the winner of the game. Buffalo needs a strong third if a win is to be had.
Be sure to tune in to NWHL.zone for live game action from New Jersey. The Beauts are down, but not out, and handing the Riveters the first loss of the season would be a sweet end to this two-game road trip.