Heading into the third year of play, the NWHL put a cap on a historic third season with the Metropolitan Riveters defeating the Buffalo Beauts 1-0 in the championship game. With a heart-wrenching loss in the Isobel Cup Final solidly in the rearview mirror, Beauts defender Jacquie Greco and rookie-of-the year forward Hayley Scamurra took some time to reflect on a season of growth as individuals, as a team, and as a league.
“Coming into this season as the defending Isobel Cup champs was a unique experience,” Greco began. “Somehow, we kind of had this underdog feeling, but also a target on our backs in the new season.
“Once we got to camp in September, things began to click - it was obvious the talent level was there, but we didn’t know who would play with who.”
Scamurra, who spent the postseason with the Beauts after her Northeastern season came to an end in 2017, felt this same uncertainty in the early going. “We had a hard time getting a team chemistry going at the beginning. We knew we had all of the tools to be a winning team, but we didn’t quite have the pieces working together. We knew what we were capable of and we kept working on building that team chemistry.”
It was a shaky beginning for Buffalo, as the team fell to 2-4 by week six of the season. It was a familiar position for Buffalo, who had spent their first two years fighting for a winning record. “We were still trying to figure each other out. We only get to skate twice a week, and some of us only once a week,” Greco explained.
“We tried to get more people to practices and lifts and just spend more time together,” Scamurra agreed.
Whatever they did between week six and week seven, it worked. The Beauts would not suffer another loss until the championship game. There was another significant event that gave the team a boost as the holiday break approached. Scamurra says the sale of the team directly affected the way the team played. “After we were bought by the Pegulas, we really felt embraced by the city of Buffalo. We wanted to prove to the city that we were a good professional team,” and they did. “We played together as a team...No one relied on individual talent. And we played every team tough.”
“It’s not like we were playing badly at the beginning of the year,” Greco said. “We just hadn’t clicked as a team yet. I think it took us those first few games to figure it out. I sometimes think teams are stronger when they win together and lose together. We definitely became a stronger team because of those losses.
“The second half of our year was our strongest, but that only really tells a certain story. We had a couple of overtime wins; a couple of shootout wins...It was just finding a way to win. We found a way to win those 11 games in a row.”
Individually, Greco says her experience as a rookie last year helped to prepare her for this season. “I definitely had more confidence in myself. I know the pace of the league. I knew what was expected. I knew what to expect from other teams. I felt confident in my leadership, too; I felt like I could take these young girls that were fresh out of college and give them some guidance for their first year.”
Scamurra says her time with the team for the Cup run last year was a huge asset. “I think my brief time last year helped me adjust to the speed and physicality for this year. I felt comfortable with some of the players and the staff which definitely helped.”
Though the season didn’t end the way the Beauts had hoped, they are prepared to bring the cup back to Buffalo next year, and playing for themselves and each other. “I’m looking forward to playing in this league that has continued growing a fan base,” Scamurra said in closing. “I’m looking forward to living in Buffalo for the full season and to play with my teammates who have become good friends.”