By Janet Schultz,NYOL
Photos by Janet Schultz Photography©
Beauts Open Season
The Buffalo Beauts of the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF formerly NWHL) have completed a three-day training camp at their home at Northtowns Arena, Amherst.
A finalized roster has been set with the Beauts listing three outstanding goaltenders including Caty Flagg, Carly Jackson and Lovisa Berndtsson.
On defense are Samantha Fieseler, Marie-Jo Pelletier, Dominique Kremer, Allison Attea, Elena Orlando, Emma Keenan and Emilie Harley.
Amy Budde, Autumn MacDougall, Missy Segall, Brittany Colton, Cassidy MacPherson, Taylor Wasylk, Anjelica Diffendal, Jenna Suokko, Kennedy Ganser, Erin Gehen, Grace Klienbach, Taylor Accursi and Cassidy Vinkle will be the 2021-22 forwards.
Lisa Chesson has opted out of her contract for this season and will not be joining the Beauts. She was on the original list of signings.
The only New Yorkers on the roster are Attea and Gehen, both from WNY. Attea is in her first season with the Beauts and Gehen will begin her third season as a Beaut.
For the last few months Head Coach Rhea Coad has been viewing players on a computer screen and zooming with them. Now to be on the ice in Buffalo she felt it was too good to be true.
“With Covid we were nervous and wondering the what if’s; but now we focus on controlling the controllable,” said Coach Coad.
“The main reason they were so together today (Sunday) is they spent five hours together yesterday (on a scavenger hunt around Buffalo) and then two hours for dinner,” said Coad.
“For the first time we were all in and enjoyed ourselves,” said Coad. “It’s more fun when everyone is all in.”
Coad said the players are doing exactly what the coaching staff went over on video with them and attributes that to their hockey IQ and the culture.
“That’s what we have been lacking, that culture,” said Coad. “They have bought into us giving them the best experience.”
Even though early on, Coad sees the Beauts as being fast, hungry and “in your face.” She wants them to be in control of the game and control the puck. It will be important to build their confidence.
“If they are smiling, we are on the right track to build that confidence,” said Coad.
The coaching staff has some lines in mind but as they move forward they will be looking ahead and may make some minor changes.
“It was a great first weekend for us,” said Cassidy Vinkle. “A lot of us haven’t played together before but for the first time we have players that are all in.”
“We got right into it,” she continued.
“I felt it from day one. The energy was buzzing,” said CJ Jackson. “It takes time to build culture and chemistry; but everyone was engaged from the get go.
“We are building on what we started last year.”
“I feel refreshed. Last season I don’t think we had a full practice with everyone there due to covid,” said Erin Gehen. “So was nice to get back to normalcy.
“We have a tight team even though only together three days.”
“I think we have to build and there are things we need to work on the ice. But the off-ice this weekend was wonderful,” she continued.
Gehen is glad to be back in Buffalo and is very excited to play in front of family and friends.
“These are the best fans and I am glad to be playing in front of people rather than cardboard,” she said laughing.
Vinkle and Jackson are new to Buffalo and they are getting to know the area.
“Buffalo has the best fans. Walking down the street people knew who the Beauts were and I can’t wait to play in front of them,” said Vinkle. “I am excited to be treated like a professional athlete here.”
“Our culture will define us and getting to know each other is what helps us on the ice,” said Gehen. “It’s exciting moving forward.”
“Our coaches are doing a great job defining that culture. This weekend was huge in getting to know each other as people. The relationships off the ice makes us a better team on the ice,” said Jackson.
“We are from all walks of life and getting together and building a bond is important.”
“The fun of our culture is working together on and off ice,” said Vinkle. “Everyone has to buy in and do their part; and work hard every single day.”
“Last year I learned how much I love hockey,” said Gehen. “We didn’t have the usual off ice relationships (due to the Pandemic). It taught me what it means to be a team in general and focus on relationships.”
She explained that when you don’t have a personal relationship with teammates it’s a struggle. They had players coming into the bubble that the rest of the team had never met and they couldn’t get to know them one-on-one due to the bubble atmosphere. Then they had to play and work with them on the ice, not knowing them. It was hard.
“We can grow those relationships this year,” continued Gehen. “We were all talking even before we could get face-to-face.”
“Its been fun,” said Jackson. “We are working with returning cores and then adding the new pieces to the puzzle. Our defense is always talking and that is good. Being able to communicate with each other and working toward same goal is what everyone has bought into.”
Jackson also said that adding Berndtsson is a great addition and all three goalies are having fun and enjoying the process together.
“Sometime that isn’t the case but the three of us are having fun,” said Jackson, thanking GM Nate Oliver.
“We all worked so hard to get to professional hockey and making it work in our personal lives is sometimes challenging; but we are all working together and it’s so fun,” said Jackson with a huge smile on her face.
As every season has been, the Beauts will be facing challenges but that isn’t going to have them worrying about it.
“We are going against every team the same way,” said Gehen. “We know who is in the league and it doesn’t matter who won in past, we play the same way no matter what.”
“There are challenges every year on every team and we will face them together,” said Gehen.
“We have a great foundation. At every practice and every game we will be building and working on it,” said Vinkle.
“By the end of the season we will accomplish all our goals together,” said Gehen.
The Beauts open their regular season at home on Saturday, November 6 against the Toronto Six. Tickets are available at: https://beauts.universitytickets.com/
Introducing the PHF–Premier Hockey Federation
On another topic, they addressed the recent rebranding of the NWHL to the PHF.
The three players are now part of a historical change. The NWHL is now known as the PHF or Premiere Hockey Federation, which is a rebranding to move their mission forward in building strong role models and fueling the continued growth of the sport.
“It’s exciting,” said Jackson. “Really being able to be defined by who we are as hockey players, and who we are as people. We are able to be who we are and that is the most powerful thing.”
“Our differences are what makes us special,” Jackson continued.
“Now we can be questioned on our hockey skills, not what it was like growing up playing boys hockey.”