As the holiday season kicks into full gear, the Buffalo Beauts delivered a 3-1 gift to a rowdy crowd on home ice at HarborCenter. The win came mere hours after a disappointing loss across the street, making victory for the near-sellout that much sweeter.
The importance of the game was perhaps lost among the news that the team had altered its DNA in a huge way, relieving the coaching staff of its duties. The team headed into the night with third place on the line - a loss was a slide in the standings, and a win kept them at pace with the league’s top teams.
Connecticut entered the game on quite a streak, with five points in the last three games; all acquired from the Isobel Cup champion Metropolitan Riveters. There was little question that this Whale club was drastically different than the one Buffalo had shut out in back-to-back games to start the season.
Buffalo had a different look, as well. Interim assistant coach and general manager Nik Fattey stood behind the bench for the first time, with head coach Cody McCormick obligated to a previous engagement. Buffalo’s lines got a shakeup. The packed building had a different feel to it.
The Beauts opened the scoring and never looked back. Julianna Iafallo scored her third of the season, causing a veritable lake effect storm of stuffed animals to accumulate on the ice. Iafallo followed up on a loose puck that Kelly Babstock shoved away from a sprawling Meeri Raisanen. It was a solid end to a weak first period that saw the team fail to register a shot in the first several minutes. The Beauts battled early penalty trouble with no issue, and were rewarded for their stalwart patience.
Thanks to everyone who tossed a bear tonight!— Buffalo Beauts (@BuffaloBeauts) December 9, 2018
They’re on their way to Child and Family Services of WNY. pic.twitter.com/fau5GVT6Oi
Just over two minutes into the second period, Hayley Scamurra gave the team a 2-0 lead, firing the puck past Raisanen from her home in the slot. Lisa Chesson drew the defense from the center of the ice and found the readied stick of Scamurra, who put home her 15th career goal.
The Whale responded at 13:55 of the period, when Emily Fluke lofted a puck toward the net. Russian star Katerina Mrázová was cruising through the slot and the puck caught her in the back, deflect beyond a windmilling Shannon Szabados. It was the Whale’s only goal of the evening.
As the third period eclipsed the halfway mark, Emily Janiga scored her first goal of the season, burying a juicy rebound from an Anna Zalewski shot. Connecticut showed flashes of brilliance throughout the period, but were largely overpowered and outplayed by a surging Beauts squad.
It was a key victory for the Beauts in many ways. As the players spoke through the postgame interviews, two things were clear: there is a deep appreciation for coaches Seiling and Muni, and this win was a team win. To a player, each pointed out how they’d come together as a team and scored the victory. The win gave the team a cushion between themselves and the fourth place Whale, and put them just one game away from the second place Boston Pride.
The Beauts have a three-week break before they face the league-leading Minnesota Whitecaps in an exciting home series that includes a game at KeyBank Center. Two wins could put the Beauts in first place with two games in hand. The league has reached the meat of the season, and fans are hungry to taste sweet victory,
Final: Beauts 3, Whale 1
Shots: Beauts: 35, Whale 11
Beauts Goals: Julianna Iafallo, Hayley Scamurra, Emily Janiga
Whale Goal: Katerina Mrázová
Kelly Babstock (2 assists)
Shannon Szabados (10 saves on 11 shots)
Emily Fluke (1 assist)