The city of Buffalo is proud of a lot of things, but aside from its reputation as the City of Good Neighbors, hockey is chief among them. It is little surprise, perhaps, that the region has churned out a litany of professional hockey players, especially on the women’s side. On January 25, Team USA announced its exhibition roster, including for the first time Hayley Scamurra. She’ll join fellow Western New Yorker Emily Pfalzer in the lineup for a series of games against Canada.
While Scamurra and Pfalzer have become household names in the women’s hockey community, the Beauts also boast six other players from Buffalo and its surrounding suburbs. This list includes forward Julianna Iafallo, who joined the team following an exceptional performance at the team’s summer prospect camp.
The Eden, New York rookie is third on the team in goals and fourth in points - the highest scoring depth player on the squad. Iafallo says that she didn’t expect to produce in this way when she entered into the league. “I didn’t really have any plans to be a scorer; normally I’m a playmaker and I normally give a lot of assists, but I’ve been with a great line this whole year. They’ve been so supportive and we’ve just fed off of each other. All of my goals are a credit to them.”
Iafallo’s rookie season has been, in a word, tumultuous. The organization has seen turnover in both coaching and management, but has thrived on the chaos, and has emerged a determined juggernaut, charging through the standings with four straight wins. Iafallo’s linemates Kelly Babstock and Emily Janiga have helped the young forward focus on the task at hand. “Babs [Babstock] is a first-year player for the Beauts, but she’s been in this league a long time. She’s awesome because she’s just so fun to play with and if you’re having a rough game, she’s always there to pick you up.
“Emily is a Buffalo native too; she’s played on this team before so she knows what game days are like, she knows what practices are like...she’s just been great all-around, too.”
The Iafallos are, without a doubt, the city’s definitive hockey family. The whole crew sits directly in front of the broadcast booth for every game and adds their own flavor to the events at HarborCenter. “I had my parents at a lot of OSU (Iafallo captained the Ohio State Women’s Hockey team) games, but a lot of my other family couldn’t make it. Being able to be close to home, I have other grandparents that couldn’t make the drive to Ohio, now they can come here.
“My family is very loud on AND off the ice, so it’s pretty normal for me to be able to hear them. But it’s great. They’re always around, and I appreciate it.”
The younger Iafallo is the local half of a professional brother/sister pair. The two were featured in a recent episode of the LA Kings ‘Black and White’ series. The reverence the duo shares for the other is the antithesis of sibling rivalry; each enjoys pushing the other, and relishing in the other’s successes.
As women’s professional hockey continues to grow, there is little question that Buffalo will leave its indelible mark. Players like Iafallo, Scamurra, Pfalzer, and Maddie Elia have risen to be among the best in the world, and each has a special connection to the place they call home. There is a wealth of success ahead of Iafallo, and it is all taking place where her adoring family can celebrate along with her.