Buffalo Beauts finish season with championship loss
The first season of women's hockey in Buffalo fittingly ended with a loss to Boston in the Isobel Cup, but the Beatus have much to be proud of this year.
The Buffalo Beauts inaugural season in the NWHL ended in predictable fashion for anybody who follows Buffalo sports - with a loss to the Boston Pride in the Isobel Cup Finals. But just because the final moments of the season were disappointing, that doesn't mean that the first year of professional women's hockey in Buffalo wasn't a successful one.
In fact, the Beauts being in the championship series at all was a bit of a pleasant surprise, considering their third place finish in the regular season and their first-round upset of the Connecticut Whale 2-1 in a best of three playoff series. Once in the finals, the Beauts couldn't find a way to beat the powerhouse team in Boston, which led the regular season in both the standings and in scoring.
Boston was leading the series 1-0 thanks to a 4-3 OT win in Game 1. The deciding Game Two saw Team USA stars Hilary Knight and Briana Decker score all three goals for the Pride, including one shorthanded, in Boston's 3-1 championship win. Knight and Decker led the NWHL in scoring during the regular season, and spearheaded Boston's dominance of the league this season. Decker was also named MVP of the Isobel Cup playoffs.
The Beauts finished the regular season in third place, with a 5-9-4 record, which made their upset of second place Connecticut, who finished at 13-5-0, so exciting. They were led in scoring by Kelley Steadman, who scored 13 goals and finished fifth in the league with 20 points in just 10 games. Where the Beauts struggled most was in preventing goals - starting goaltender Brianne Mclaughlin finished last in the league with a 3.41 GAA and a .907 save percentage.
Despite their season-ending loss, this season was a success for both the Beauts and the NWHL simply by making it to the finish. Now the challenge is to improve everything for next year, from the team in Buffalo to the league at large. With the rumors of Canadian expansion into CWHL territory that the league dropped on its final day, that improvement seems already underway.