As the Buffalo Beauts prepare to open the 2019 Isobel Cup playoff, things are heating up at Harbor Center. The Beauts will host the semifinal for the second consecutive season, and will again faceoff against the Boston Pride.
It was a hotly-contested race for home ice, which saw the two teams finish tied in the standings. Buffalo held the head-to-head edge, taking the season series 3-1. The Beauts outscored the Pride 15-7 in the series, and 14-3 in their three victories.
The Beauts have had some outstanding goaltending - the best in the league with a team goals against of 1.50, and a team save percentage of .934. It’s an incredible feat for a club whose netminders are in their first seasons of women’s professional hockey.
The goalies can also thank the defense for their success. Buffalo is a great puck-possession team, and the back end plays a huge role in that success.
It’s perhaps more impressive that the blue line has been so solid, despite a midseason shakeup. Veterans Sarah Casorso and Sarah Edney left the team to pursue careers off of the ice, leaving room for Jacquie Greco and Jordyn Burns to step into the lineup.
And step up, they have. Buffalo’s defense is still as solid as ever, and the second half push that got the team into second overall has been driven from the blueline.
Coach Cody McCormick is proud of the pair. “The first thing that comes to mind when you see them play is ‘veteran.’ They read plays; they know what to do with the puck before it comes to them...they’ve been very responsible for us.”
Blake Bolden, who is generally paired with Burns when she’s not line up with Emily Pfalzer, is also complimentary of the former NCAA National Champion. “She’s great - she makes really great plays. All of our D work really well together.”
Saturday will be Burns’ third semi-final as a member of the Beauts. With five points in her 35 NWHL games, the Minnesota native has made a name by herself by being responsibly aggressive. That’s her goal again this weekend. “We’ve been challenging them offensively,” she said regarding the success against Boston, “We shut them down before they even get into our offensive zone, and get the puck up to the forwards.”
Greco, who wears the baby blue for her hometown, says Saturday will be a test for the club. “Anything goes in the playoffs. They are a great team. It’s going to be a great game.
Greco has been a utility player for the Beauts in her three seasons. She’s played forward when the team has needed her to, which really helps her to fit in with Buffalo’s high-paced transition. While her work doesn’t show up on the scoresheet, Greco’s vision and speed put her in place to read a play as it unfolds, and gives the chance to make play at both ends of the ice.
With Boston standing between the Beauts and a fourth consecutive championship, Burns says this team is built to go all the way. “We’ve got amazing goaltending, and it just goes up through the D and the forwards. I think we’ve got the total package. I think this is our year.”