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Beauts load up as league stands idle

Buffalo Beauts Draft Pick Savannah Harmon sets up shop in the slot during Free Agent Camp on June 9, 2018.
Erik Wollschlager

Buffalo Beauts freshman general manager Nik Fattey is printing contracts faster than the National mint is printing money.

In the last week, the team has signed two gold medalists, a silver medalist, a two-time NCAA champion, a two time Isobel Cup champion, a NCAA championship runner-up, and a Frozen Four finalist. The remaining four teams in the league have signed a combined one player.

Days ago, when gold medalist Dani Cameranesi signed, she mentioned the draw of the Beauts’ private ownership several times. There is little question that the Pegula family’s acquisition of the team in December of 2017 is a major factor when potential prospects are looking for their first homes.

Forward Corinne Buie, who was the first player in NWHL history to have her name etched into Lady Isobel’s stand, experienced the advantages of the new ownership group last season. She’ll be joining the team for a third campaign, making her the most tenured player signed to the team. Buie has played in NWHL games, out of a possible 51. She served as team captain last season, and has been a key special teams players for the Beauts throughout her career, and is fourth all-time on the team in scoring.

Defender Lisa Chesson brings a dynamic defensive style that really stood out last season. The 2010 silver medalist is another important veteran for the Beauts and drove Buffalo’s defensive point production in the 2017-18 campaign.

Rookie goaltender Nicole Hensley is not short on experience - or talent. The young netminder had three starts in the 2016-17 world championships and finished with a .630 goals against average and a .964 save percentage. In the 2018 Olympic Games, Hensley shut out the single opponent that she faced. In the press release, Fattey stated, “Internationally and collegiately, Nicole has distinguished herself among her peers and we’re excited to bring her outstanding ability to Buffalo.” Sources indicate the team will still retain last year’s Goaltender of the Year Amanda Leveille, with head coach Ric Seiling tweeting a reminder of the success Buffalo has had with a 1/1A goaltending duo.

Most recently, the Beauts signed three graduated athletes; draft picks Savannah Harmon and Annika Zalewski, along with Western New York Native Julianna Iafallo.

Harmon captained the Clarkson Golden Knights in back-to-back NCAA championships. The diminutive defender was the ECAC Defenseman of the Year in 2017 and 2018, finishing both of those seasons as the nation’s second-leading scorer among her blue-line colleagues.

Zalewski’s leadership as captain of the Colgate University squad led the team to face Harmon and the Knights in the 2018 NCAA National Championship. The 5’10” forward enjoyed her time on the ice with the legendary Jess Jones at free agent camp, telling the press, ““It was fun making some plays - we had a good time.”

Iafallo suited up in 146 games for the Ohio State Buckeyes, and is excited to begin her professional career so close to home. “It’s pretty amazing, after going away for four years and getting the opportunity to play at Ohio State and get the experience there, then to be able to come home and...to play in front of friends and family. It will be pretty cool.”

Fattey’s first roster is beginning to take shape. With anticipated signings of players like Leveille, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the league reacts to the flood of talent pooling on the shores of Lake Erie.