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**Title photo courtesy of NWHL.com**
After a solid 60+ minute effort on home ice in their first appearance as a One Buffalo property, the Buffalo Beauts beat the Boston Pride 3-2 in overtime on Kaylyn Schroka’s second goal of the season. Schroka earned the NWHL’s Player of the Week award for her efforts.
They’ll be taking this show on the road to the Steel City on January 14 as the team wows the crowd at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. The neutral site matchup will pit the team against the last place Connecticut Whale, who are struggling to keep pace in the middle of the pack.
In their last matchup, Buffalo won 3-1, but the game was much closer than the score dictates. Connecticut was able to possess the puck and wear down the Buffalo defense, leading to another weak third period performance from the Beauts. In the end, it may have been a strategic error by the Whale that was their ultimate demise; head coach Ryan Equale sent Connecticut star Kelly Babstock to cherry-pick at the opposing blueline, playing five-on-four in his zone. It was a strange look from the team and the bet did not pay off for Equale.
As the Beauts attempt to put more distance between themselves and the Pride, and try to make up some ground on the Riveters, here’s what you need to know:
Missing you: Buffalo will be sending four of its best players to Tampa to compete in a series of tune-up games for Team USA in advance of the 2018 Olympics. These players include Jess Jones, who is on a three-game goal streak, Hayley Scamurra, who had the game winner against Boston, Corinne Buie, the team’s captain and arguably best two-way forward, and featured defender Sarah Edney.
It will be difficult for Buffalo to fill the gaps left by these players, but the team does have experience on its side. Roster changes are common for the Beauts game-to-game, and while they generally aren’t shy an entire line of forwards, it’s something the team has had to deal with since its inception. The reunion of the Adrian Trio could push Kristen Lewicki and Schroka to continue their hot streaks, and the shuffle will give some depth defenders like Kayla Parsons a chance to get back on the ice.
It is important to note that Connecticut will be missing only one player: Babstock. This is a solid blow to the Whale lineup, however, having more of its starters at the ready is an advantage for the Connecticut team.
Holding on to Mo: Call it momentum. Call it confidence. Call it a brand new team of players that are finally learning how to play together. Whatever you call it, the Beauts have it right now. Not only did the team defeat Boston handily, but Buffalo managed to do it without taking a single penalty. It’s a drastically different look from the season opener. The team has matured and isn’t taking the lazy infractions, or the retaliatory ones; instead the team is going scoreboard on opponents.
This is the type of play that coaches Ric Seiling and Craig Muni have been expecting. “We’re starting to move the puck more, get things set up and create some opportunities,” Seiling said after the win over Boston.
The Beauts also mastered the faceoff circle in Boston. It was the first time this year that the team really dominated the dot and continuing to do so would certainly give the team a leg up in the possession game.
Be aware: Both of Boston’s tallies came on the rush, which is different from a normal Beauts performance. Usually Buffalo spends a lot of time hemmed into the zone and eventually, a breakdown leads to a goal.
It was quite an improvement for the Beauts to be the team controlling the zone, but they need to be aware of a quick transition, which all of the teams in the NWHL are capable of. Setting up and getting a good cycle is great, and that means that the defense will pinch and join the play, but the blueliners need to recognize when a turnover could burn them and be ready to get back. Nothing will kill a good possession more than an odd-player rush coming back the other way.
The matchup in Connecticut will be the Twitter Game of the Week. Justen and Jeff will be on the call with intermission reports from Erica Ayala of the Connecticut Whale’s broadcast team. Be sure to tune in and tweet at us!