After an extra week to prepare for the first place Minnesota Whitecaps, the Buffalo Beauts travelled to the State of Hockey to prove their mettle against the league’s freshman juggernaut. After eight straight shutout periods, the Beauts relinquished a goal, and for only the second time in 15 games, the team suffered a loss; 3-2 to the definitive NWHL leaders.
With 10 points, the Whitecaps sit firmly atop the league standings, and Buffalo can only hope to take a swipe at the Caps when they return for the rubber match in less than 24 hours.
The Whitecaps scored the first goal against the Beauts in nearly three games, when Katie McGovern scored at 5:38 gone in the first period. Buffalo would be persistent in their pressure, firing 10 shots on Whitecaps (and former Beauts) goaltender Amanda Leveille.
Buffalo continued to swarm the Minnesota zone throughout the second period, and the team was finally rewarded for their efforts when forward Maddie Elia buried the puck behind Leveille to tie the game for Buffalo with two minutes left in the frame.
The Beauts would trail three times in the game, and Minnesota took the lead for the second time when Kate Schipper put the puck past a sprawling Shannon Szabados at 3:38 of the third period. Before long, Buffalo tied the game at two when Taylor Accursi scored her first goal of the season at 5:18. The back-and-forth period marched on, and Jonna Curtis put Minnesota ahead for good with 7:04 left in the game.
The Beauts outshot the Whitecaps 36-28, but Leveille remained steadfast in the onslaught. The Minnesota netminder produced several rebound chances for Buffalo, but the Beauts were unable to cash in on the loose pucks in front of the Whitecaps net.
It was an unsurprisingly disciplined matchup, with only seven penalties called on the two teams; four against Buffalo and three against Minnesota. Again, as was predictable, neither team capitalized on special teams, and the league’s two best penalty-killing clubs continued to be so.
The loss was a good test for a Buffalo team that had been dominant in two matchups against a definitively weak opponent. The Whitecaps boast a distinctly talented lineup, and were perhaps able to catch an unsuspecting Beauts squad in a position of weakness. The same may not be true on Sunday, when the team will have an opportunity to take a game back from Minnesota.
Final score: Minnesota 3, Buffalo 2
Shots: Buffalo 38 | Minnesota 28
Buffalo goals: Maddie Elia (1), Taylor Accursi (1)
Minnesota goals: Katie McGovern (1), Kate Schipper (1), Jonna Curtis (1)
Three Stars of the Game
Jonna Curtis: 1G, 1A
Amanda Leveille: 36 saves on 38 shots
Taylor Accursi: 1G