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Beauts Free Agency Camp kicks off

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Familiar faces and new recruits highlight afternoon of hockey

Goaltender Kelsey Neumann reacts to sneaky splash from forward Hayley Scamurra while general manager Nik Fattey looks on.
Erik Wollschlager

On June 9, the Buffalo Beauts opened the HarborCenter doors to prospects, team members, and free agents in order to evaluate potential talent for the team’s fourth iteration.

Familiar faces took the ice; 2017-18 Rookie of the Year Hayley Scamurra was a presence in three-on-three scrimmages, and everyone who spoke after the practice was complimentary of Scamurra, who is hoping to get a look from Team USA.

Savannah Harmon, who was Buffalo’s second-round pick in 2017, was in awe after playing with Scamurra in the session. Harmon was asked about the difference between captaining the 2017 and 2018 National Champion Clarkson Golden Knights, and the camp she’d just been a part of. “Hayley...I was just on her three-on-three team - the skill and the speed that she moves the puck...it was a lot of fun to get to play with her. She’s definitely unbelievable. Just to get out there an play with her - you give her a pass and she’s giving it right back. It was a lot of fun.”

Harmon is a highly-touted prospect, for obvious reasons, and her skill showed on the ice, as well. When asked what she could bring to the team, Harmon was excited to share her strengths. “I learned a lot over my four years [at Clarkson]...I like to think I’m pretty calm; whether we’re up a bunch or down a bunch...the way I play is going to stay consistent.” This was an important statement for Harmon, who says she has followed the Beauts closely since the inaugural season when her then-coach Meghan Duggan joined the team. Buffalo has a tendency to get puck-focused and panicky in the defensive zone. A calm presence like Harmon’s could have a huge impact. Her offensive vision won’t hurt, either.

Annika Zalewski, who played her senior season at Buffalo’s Nichols High School, was drafted by the Beauts in the fourth round. Zalewski was in Germany when she learned she’d been drafted on Twitter. “I had a feeling going into it [the draft] but it definitely wasn’t certain...it was two in the morning, so it was pretty crazy!”

Zalewski is proud of her approach to a complete game. “I try to play solid, two-way game. Be good defensively; make smart plays. I try to contribute wherever I can and make the players around me better.”

The former Colgate forward sparked a chemistry with veteran Jess Jones during the session. “It was fun making some plays - we had a good time.”

Jones was a presence throughout the practice. The Canadian assassin is easy to find on the ice with her sleeves tucked up into her elbow pads, and once she has the puck, she is nearly impossible to stop. Jones is a rare combination of visionary playmaker and deadly sniper. It was great to see her back in a Beauts sweater.

Five goaltenders attended camp, including last season’s backup, Kelsey Neumann. The veteran of two seasons easily had the save of the day, cartwheeling from post to post to pluck the puck from its destiny as a goal on a play late in the session.

Hayley Williams, who was an inaugural member of the Beauts, and has since made a name for herself in the CWHL, demonstrated a respectable growth in her game. Williams anchored her team’s defense, playing the role of ‘last person back’ for Team Purple. Her poise and technical defensive skill were on full display, and her skating aided the team’s transition, resulting in several solid offensive opportunities.

Newcomer Jacqueline Scheffel stood out amongst the undrafted invitees. The forward was strong and steady; it seemed as though she was a part of every play. She led offensive rushes and was a wall defensively. Scheffel is a graduate of the University of Toronto and is looking to get back onto the ice after a two-year absence. “I miss it, a lot. This is what I love. I saw what this team means to the city, and I’ve seen how amazing the Buffalo fans are. It would mean a lot to me to have the opportunity to play in front of them.”

Scamurra echoed the prospect’s sentiments. “I’m so excited to come back to this team and this community,” she told the press. “We had a really strong showing at our last game…I’m really excited to play in front of our home crowd.”

Buffalo has signed four players to the roster, and there is a high possibility that there will be more signings as camp comes to a close. General manager Nik Fattey is clearly anxious to finalize his squad and get the 2018-19 season underway.