Beauts Preview: Championship edition
Buffalo first club in NA professional women’s hockey to compete in four consecutive championships
ISOBEL CUP FINAL
Sunday, March 17:
Buffalo Beauts (12-4-1) vs Minnesota Whitecaps (12-4-0)
Puck Drop: 2:00PM Sunday, March 17 | Tria Rink | St. Paul, MN
TV: Streaming on Twitter. Follow @NWHL
Know Your Opponent
Record: (12-4-0) | 24 PTS
Last 10: 6-4-0
League Standings: 1st Overall
PP: 4th (7.5%)
PK: 3rd (86.3%)
What to Watch
1. Battle of the backstops
For the fourth consecutive season, the Buffalo Beauts will compete in the Isobel Cup final. They are 1-2 in their previous three tries, having lost last season 1-0 to the Metropolitan Riveters.
This team looks vastly different from that squad, starting at the back. The Beauts will likely start Shannon Szabados in goal, and at the other end of the rink will be former Beaut and Isobel Cup champion, Amanda Leveille. Fans know Lev as a rock-solid goaltender who is best when she sees a lot of shots - which is exactly what Buffalo has excelled at throughout the year.
Shannon Szabados is one of the most recognizable names in hockey, whose legend has only grown by competing in a women’s professional league for the first time in her prolific career.
Leveille’s 2.09 goals against average in the regular season was the best of her pro career. Szabados posted an astonishing 1.49. Surely this goaltending duel will be one for the ages.
2. By the numbers
On paper, this is Buffalo’s game to lose. Despite a 1-3 record against Minnesota in the regular season, the Beauts maintained a positive goal differential (plus-1) by winning the final matchup 4-0. Buffalo boasts a higher goals per game and a lower goals against.
The Beauts outshot the Whitecaps 546-491 - 34 shots per game to Minnesota’s 30, but the Whitecaps’ 10.8 team shooting percentage is slightly better than Buffalo’s 10.4. Szabados and partner Nicole Hensley stopped 93.4 percent of their opponents’ shots, and Leveille 92 percent.
Perhaps the biggest disparity between the two finalists is on special teams. Buffalo’s 10 power play goals is more than double Minnesota’s four. On the kill, the Beauts have allowed only five goals to the Whitecaps’ seven.
This one versus two matchup is close, but the stats give Buffalo the edge.
With a win in Minnesota, Buffalo will the first NWHL team to win Isobel twice. They are currently the only team that did not win the Cup on home ice (the 2016 was ‘neutral site,’ but played in the Boston area).
The Beauts have taken many heavy steps to get to this point. There was a change in coaching, and later, in management. There was a distinct change in the lineup in the postseason, which included the acquisition of some of the biggest names in women’s hockey.
Steel yourselves, Beauts fans. It is the last dance of the 2018-19 season, and it’s set to be an incredible one.
Hayley Scamurra-Maddie Elia-Dani Cameranesi
Emily Janiga-Kelly Babstock-Julianna Iafallo
Corinne Buie-Annika Zalewski-Taylor Accursi
Blake Bolden-Emily Pfalzer
Lisa Chesson-Savannah Harmon
Jacque Greco-Emily Pfalzer
Blake Bolden - Sarah Edney
Starting Goaltender: Shannon Szabados
Kendall Coyne-Schofield-Hannah Brandt-Amy Menke
Jonna Curtis-Katie McGovern-Kate Schipper
Kalli Funk-Laura Barnes-Allie Thunstrom
Lee Stecklein-Amanda Boulier
Winny Brown-Lisa Martinson
Emma Stauber-Chelsey Rosenthal
Starting Goaltender: Amanda Leveille