The playoffs are looming on the near horizon, so Saturday’s matchup between the Buffalo Beauts and Metropolitan Riveters had all of the electricity of playoff hockey. Buffalo needs to win out to secure a home playoff game. Metro is clinging desperately to the hope that they can finish above Connecticut in the standings.
The Riveters were coming off of an 8-1 embarrassment at the hands of the Boston Pride; the Beauts had not taken the ice in three weeks. Regardless, both teams came hot out of the gate. Coach Cody McCormick would confess in his postgame comments that he thought his team was ‘shaking off some rust,’ but the back-and-forth action continued through much of the first 20 minutes. The Riveters were able to keep pace with the Beauts, until a chaotic scrum in front of the net saw Kelly Babstock poke home a rebound beyond an outstretched Katie Fitzgerald.
The second period was all Buffalo. The Riveters were barely able to break out of the zone in the middle frame, and despite successfully killing off three straight, mostly concurrent penalties, the team struggled to find a rhythm. At 4:19, Taylor Accursi found a loose puck that had gotten away from Fitzgerald and fired it past the Riveters netminder. At 12:36, Emily Janiga scored her third of the year on a trickshot from behind the net that rebounded in off of the back of Fitzgerald.
Frustrations seemed to boil over in the third period. Madison Packer and Maddie Elia got mixed up on the boards and took swipes at each other, resulting in matching minors. The physicality of the game didn’t wane as the period stretched on, with both teams finding sneaky ways to take pokes and jabs at their opponents. Still, games aren’t won behind the play. It was a struggle for the Riveters to break out of the zone, but during the four-on-four, they did just that, breaking up the ice 2-on-1. Rebecca Russo froze goaltender Shannon Szabados, and fired a rocket over her blocker-side shoulder to cut Buffalo’s lead to two.
The Beauts did not relent. Buffalo kept the foot on the gas, pressing Metro hard until the final horn. Emily Janiga got her second of the game on the empty net, with Szabados getting her first point in women’s professional hockey - an assist after boxing out the Riveters Audra Richards behind the net and pushing the puck up the boards to Savannah Harmon. The 4-1 victory pushed Buffalo inches closer to the home playoff spot.
“I think we came out flying. We moved the puck well. Our D was strong, and our forwards did their job. They put the puck in the net when we needed them to,” said defender Blake Bolden after the game. It was an apt assessment of the matchup, in which the Beauts frustrated the Riveters for much of the game.
Buffalo has a tough weekend ahead. They will travel to Connecticut to face the Whale on Saturday, and then bus to New Jersey for a tilt with the Riveters on Sunday. They need to win both games to bring a playoff game to HarborCenter, and if the stars and planets and moons align, they could even end up hosting the Isobel Cup final on home ice.
Final: Beauts 4, Riveters 1
Shots on goal Beauts 37 | Riveters 16
Beauts Goals: Kelly Babstock (1), Taylor Accursi (1), Emily Janiga (2)
Riveters Goals: Rebecca Russo (1)
Three stars of the game
- Emily Janiga (2G)
- Kelly Babstock (1G)
- Taylor Accursi (GWG)