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Beauts Games 8 & 9: KeyBank invasion

Big back-to-back weekend could end with shake-up in standings

Games 8 & 9

Buffalo Beauts (4-3-0) vs Minnesota Whitecaps (6-2-0)

Puck Drop: 2:00PM Saturday, December 29 | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY

1:30PM Sunday, December 30 | HarborCenter | Buffalo, NY

TV: Saturday: Twitter Game of the Week

Sunday: NWHL.zone

Know Your Opponent

Minnesota Whitecaps

Record: (6-2-0) | 12 PTS

Last 10: 6-2

League Standings: 2nd Overall

PP: 5th (3.8%)

PK: 4th (87.0%)

What to Watch

1. Next level

For the third time in league history, an NWHL game will be played in an NHL arena. The Beauts and Whitecaps will take the ice at KeyBank Center, across from their home barn at HarborCenter. It’s a sign of a much-maligned growing partnership with the NHL, and if the game the Metropolitan Riveters played at Prudential Center is any indicator, it can be pivotal for the Beauts as they try to take the next step in growing interest in the market.

There is little question that the involvement of Pegula Sports and Entertainment has given the team exposure few could have imagined at the time of the purchase. The organization has folded the Beauts nicely into the One Buffalo family, and they continue to market the team at every opportunity.

Fans who have tickets for the Saturday evening tilt between the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins will be granted admission into the Saturday afternoon matchup at KBC. It is, without a doubt, the best way to spend a late December weekend in Hockey Heaven.

2. Time to shine

The Beauts haven’t exactly been exceptional on the power play. The team has managed only one goal with the advantage, with 18 tries in eight games. The good news is that Minnesota’s penalty kill is second-worst in the NWHL, allowing three goals on 23 tries.

Improving the power play is one aspect that new coach Cody McCormick is dedicated to. The lackluster performance is something that general manager and interim assistant coach Nik Fattey mentioned several times in his meetings with the press earlier in the month.

Minnesota owns two of Buffalo’s losses this season, and one goal was the difference in both. Special teams could easily have been the spark that allowed the Beauts to garner points in either - if not both - of those matchups.

There is no time like the present for the Beauts’ power play to get going.

3. Duel of the Fates

Goaltending tandem Shannon Szabados and Nicole Hensley lead the NWHL in goals against (1.71) and save percentage (.922). Szabados herself leads the league with a .932 save percentage, having allowed only 1.60 goals against in her five starts.

Whitecaps netminder Amanda Leveille is no slouch. Buffalo fans remember Lev as the workhorse that carried the team through 11 consecutive wins en route to the team’s third championship game. She’s played most of Minnesota’s eight games (440:32 of 480 minutes) and demonstrated her usual high-caliber ability.

Leveille can be beaten, though. The Beauts - especially the top line - have gotten good at using the goaltender as a secondary passer. Shots come in low, forcing the goalie to kick a rebound into a dangerous spot. Lev has a tendency to scramble to make saves, making herself susceptible to rebounds. This is a weakness that Buffalo needs to exploit if they intend to beat Minnesota.

Buffalo Beauts

Forwards

Hayley Scamurra-Maddie Elia-Emily Janiga

Dani Cameranesi-Kelly Babstock-Julianna Iafallo

Corinne Buie-Annika Zalewski-Jacquie Greco

Defense

Blake Bolden-Emily Pfalzer

Lisa Chesson-Savannah Harmon

Sarah Edney-Sarah Casorso

Starting Goaltender: Shannon Szabados