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Beauts dig for gold

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Olympic champion Dani Cameranesi signs in Queen City

Team USA forward Dani Cameranesi (24) fights through a check from the NWHL’s Dana Travigno (8) in a January tune-up before heading to the Olympic Games.
Michelle Jay

The Buffalo Beauts have announced the signing of Olympic gold medalist Dani Cameranesi. In the press release issued by the team, Cameranesi cited the involvement of Pegula Sports and Entertainment as a key point of interest when considering the Queen City. “With their ownership in the NFL, NHL and other sports enterprises, the Pegula family is genuinely committed to bringing success to the City of Buffalo. Their passion for growing the game of women’s hockey can be seen in the strong foundation they created for women through the Buffalo Beauts organization,” she said. “I’m excited to be a part of the organization and can’t wait to begin my professional career in Buffalo.”

Cameranesi, who played her college hockey with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, was the third overall pick in the 2016 NWHL draft, chosen by the Connecticut Whale after the Beauts drafted teammate Lee Stecklein. Cameranesi’s signing could be a harbinger of more players from Minnesota and the women’s national team, though the accomplished forward was hesitant to give too much away in that regard when speaking to the press via conference call. “I think you’ll be seeing a few more in the coming days and weeks...I guess we’ll just have to wait and see on that one.”

The skilled forward is anxious to play with a litany of Beauts players, including some fellow Golden Gophers and one Terrier in particular. Aside from former teammates like Amanda Leveille and Jordyn Burns, Cameranesi said she’s played with power forward Maddie Elia before and has already gotten a text from the rookie-of-the-year finalist. She is excited to get on the ice with the Western New York native.

The players, the team’s success, the staff - all of these have attracted the national team phenom, however, Cameranesi says that stability and availability were among the most important factors when choosing Buffalo for a hockey home. “The facilities that they have to offer in Buffalo - pretty much everything they’ve done in the city - is what drew me to them [the Pegula family.] Their passion to grow the game of women’s hockey; partnering with the Buffalo Beauts and the great season that they had last year...I think it was pretty much a no-brainer for me at that point.”

The news of the NWHL hit Cameranesi while she was still a college athlete, and though she was focused on securing a gold medal for the US throughout the last season, she was still aware of the pro league that was continuing to develop at home. “I’ve been really aware...it has been great to see. From being drafted, to being on a team with a number of girls who had already played in the league previously - one of my roomates last year was Emily Pfalzer, and she was one of the big reasons I decided to sign with Buffalo. Just hearing the number of great things she had to say about the organization and the program...I know everyone is excited to be back and be a part of the NWHL or CWHL.”

There is little question that Cameranesi, who averaged 1.41 points per game at Minnesota and 1.00 points per game in the recent Olympics, is going to have an immediate impact on Buffalo’s production. The diminutive wing says she’s not just a scoring forward. “My brother made fun of me the other day because I said my favorite part of hockey was back-checking...My best attributes are my speed and my shot...but I’m a little bit of a grinder. I have the ability to play with a high level of skill, but not be afraid to battle it out in front of the net,” Cameranesi explained.

Given Buffalo’s standing as a premier hockey city, everyone is excited to get the puck dropped on the next season, but perhaps none are as excited as players like Dani. “Speaking with Emily Pfalzer...and Nik [Fattey,] the GM about what Buffalo has to offer, I know that there is a great support system for the Sabres and I’ve heard there is even a super great support system for the Beauts, too; which is even better - it’s a part of the NWHL’s mission to grow women’s hockey.”

Camp has just passed, and two key Beauts’ draft picks took part in those exercises. Cameranesi is the fifth Beaut to ink a deal; Hayley Scamurra and Elia were the first pair to sign, followed closely by Corrine Buie and Lisa Chesson. The Beauts are a team that has seen a lot of turnover in their three seasons as an organization, and though this will be Cameranise’s first campaign as a professional, there is little question she will have a lot of veteran support when the Beauts take the ice in Ocotber.