The Buffalo Beauts temporarily traded in their Beauts Blues for a set of stylish pink Strides for the Cure sweaters Saturday afternoon, in thier 2-1 shootout victory over the Connecticut Whale. As the final score would indicate, the matchup was a close one in almost every way.
“If you look at what our games have been like,” Beauts co-coach Ric Seiling noted after the contest, “they’ve always been one goal games.” And with only a single exception so far this season, that close competition set the stage for a thrilling Saturday afternoon showdown.
Despite a scoreless first period, the Beauts and Whale put on an exciting show at both ends of the ice, logging ten shots apiece and spotlighting their respective goaltenders. Seconds into the game, Whale netminder, Sydney Rossman, turned away her first of over thirty shots on the night as Buffalo’s Sarah Edney drove in attempting to make an early statement. Shortly after, it was next month’s All-Star captain, Amanda Leveille with the magic, snaring a bouncing puck in the paint being settled by forward, Kelly Babstock.
In the latter half of the period, the Whale used a late power play to again knock on the door, producing a flurry of chaos in front of Leveille, but the Buffalo goaltender remained steadfast and the teams entered the locker rooms locked at zero.
After the intermission, the teams returned with renewed purpose, seeing Babstock and Taylor Accursi trading scoring chances and the goaltenders again, relinquishing no ground. Finally, after over 32 minutes of action, Kourtney Kunichika broke onto the scoreboard, touching a puck up and over the shoulder of Rossman on a shot through traffic from the point. But the Whale were not discouraged, and refused to relent. Their persistence paid off when veteran Whale Juana Baribeau connected with the back of the net on a shot from the top right circle and sent both teams into the third knotted up once again.
A late second period penalty to the Whale created a man advantage for the Beauts in the early seconds of the third; however, despite strong possession from Buffalo, they were unable to convert. Again, the teams continued to trade fast breaks but delivered no results; in the closing minutes of regulation Maddie Elia broke in on Rossman and the Whale rang a hard shot off of the crossbar by Leveille’s head, neither able to notch the winning tally and launching both teams into only their second overtime situations of the season.
An extra five minute frame was added to the clock, yet it yielded no additions to the scoreboard, despite fast and furious attempts from the Whale and the Beauts, sending the teams into a best of three shootout and the hometown team was first to take the ice.
Elia shot first for Buffalo, but Rossman was up to the task, forcing her wide and preserving the tie. The Whale countered with Jordan Brickner, also denied the point and setting the stage for Buffalo’s second shooter, Hayley Scamurra. As is her nature, Scamurra shined through in the clutch, and delivered the only goal of the game’s final chapter, a top shelf finish to seal the win for the Beauts.
“They’re a team that doesn’t quit; you can’t count them out,” Seiling reflected. “This time they took us to a shootout.”
As they continue to close the gap on the first place Riveters, Buffalo remains pleased with the win, while still striving to grow in the home stretch. “We’d like to be more in control in the game than we were at times,” noted Seiling. “I thought when we had the pressure on them, we had some good opportunities.”
“We need to be more consistent,” concurred Beauts captain, Corinne Buie, “a whole 60 minutes. We came out with the win, so – can’t complain.”
“To get that win before the break, and then to keep rolling and have these four wins in a row is huge,” she continued, pleased with continued progress of the team. “To get over .500, be six and four, feels really good now.”
The win marks the fourth straight victory for the second place Beauts and a sixth consecutive loss for the fourth place Whale. Both the Beauts and the Whale will be in front of their respective home crowds next weekend and continue to hunt down each of the remaining points as March and the Isobel Cup the playoffs inch closer.