On January 6, the Buffalo Beauts will awake from their holiday slumber and return to the HarborCenter ice to face the Boston Pride in a matinee for the ages. A lot has happened since last we saw our frozen heroes. On December 21, the league announced that the Beauts would become the first privately owned professional women’s hockey club in North America. Now a One Buffalo property, the financial security of the team has been assured as the team is now under the ownership of sports juggernaut, the Pegula family.
On the same day, members of the team were notified they’d represent the league in a set of friendlies against Team USA in Tampa, Florida. Corinne Buie, Jess Jones, Hayley Scamurra, and Sarah Edney will all make the trip to face the American Olympians as a final tune-up for Pyeongchang.
Beyond the fairy-tale like atmosphere of the last two weeks, there is hockey to be played, and as with most matchups in a 16-game schedule, this is an important one. Boston is just a half a game back of the Beauts in the standings, and a loss for Buffalo puts the Riveters that much closer to clinching the top seed in the playoffs. This is game one of a four-game homestand (which includes a neutral site game in Pittsburgh,) and here’s what you need to know:
On a tear: Jess Jones and Kristin Lewicki each have goals in Buffalo’s last two matchups. Kourtney Kunichika and Sarah Edney each have two assists over those last two games, and Maddie Elia added one, which ties her with Kunichika as the Beauts’ scoring leaders.
Though the team is still being outscored by averages, the Beauts appear to be rounding into form as the season hits the midway point this weekend. After scoring her second goal in two games in a 3-1 victory over the Connecticut Whale on December 16, Lewicki said she was feeling more comfortable. “I just needed to get that first one under my belt. It’ll come with every game now. It’s common for me, so I’ve finally got that one and I’ll just keep going now.”
Making it count: Some fun numbers: Buffalo’s team save percentage is .897. Their opponents? The Beauts tear up other netminders to the tune of .895. Only the Whale have fewer shots on goal than the Buffalo, but the Beauts’ shooting percentage is almost double that of Connecticut and a full two percent better than Boston.
Brittany Ott has allowed 2.86 goals per game, and Buffalo has scored 2.86. Buffalo needs to continue to make their shots count against Ott this weekend if the team hopes to put some distance between themselves and the Pride in the standings.
Orange you glad I didn’t say banana? This column usually ends with something the team needs to do better, and that is usually about shots and stronger third periods. While those are both true, there is no sense in continuing to pummel this horse.
With that in mind, Buffalo needs to incorporate the defense into the offense more frequently. Sarah Edney is the only blueliner with a goal this season, which is tragic given the talent on this team. Both Lisa Chesson and Sarah Casorso have the capabilities to play forward, and so the pair should be able to bury the puck from time to time. A goal from the back end would no doubt boost the Beauts; especially in these close games with teams like Boston and Connecticut. Lewicki said it best: just get that one and it’ll come with every game.
The Beauts’ first game under the Pegula Sports and Entertainment umbrella should be a spectacle. It is also the team’s You Can Play game, presented by the organization that promotes inclusivity throughout sports. Be sure to come down and fill the HarborCenter for the defending champs.
If you can’t make the game, tune in live at NWHL.zone. Jeff, Justen, and Erik will be joined in intermissions by Boston play by play broadcaster Marisa Ingemi for insight and analysis.