Beauts Book a Date to the Isobel Cup Final as They Down the Pride in OT
The Buffalo Beauts will make their third consecutive Isobel Cup Finals appearance after defeating the Boston Pride 3-2 in overtime, in front of a packed house at the HarborCenter in Buffalo on a St. Patrick's Day, Saturday night.
Heading into the weekend, the visiting Pride sat in third place in the standings, just a single slot below the home team Beauts, but from start to finish, the Boston Pride were a relentless force.
"That Boston team, they had us nervous, they really did. They've always played us hard," noted Head Co-coach Ric Seiling, reflecting on the game and a Pride team that was always just a bounce away.
Buffalo struck first just after the halfway point of the opening frame, with defenseman Sarah Edney sweeping in from the point to drive the net and clean up a rebound from Hayley Scamurra and Kourtney Kunichika. The goal followed two near back to back Boston power plays where Boston racked up the pressure on Amanda Leveille, barraging her with shots but the sophomore netminer stood tall, turning aside pucks from every angle.
But Boston's first period luck was soon to change, as the Pride's Mary Parker forced a pass deep across the Buffalo crease to find Heather Schwartz floating across to touch it in behind Leveille to tie the game at one, less than two minutes later.
Although Buffalo poured on the pressure more than doubling their shots from the first, it was clear that Boston came to play. The next 20 minutes belonged to the Pride. The Beauts continued to blast shots on net, but Brittany Ott remained poised and saw them all the way, turning them out to her defense for quick breakouts stretching out the Buffalo defense out and forcing them to pursue. Ott's glove came up hot several times, snaring shots from Corinne Buie and Scamurra and sending her team on attack. Finally, midway through the period, Lexi Bender snuck through a long shot from the point and Mary Parker picked up her second point on the night and touch it up to sneak it past Leveille. With an extra tally on the board, the Pride were now in control and it was the Beauts who were seeking a little St. Patrick's Day luck as the horn sounded to close out period two.
With the ice freshly surfaced, the Beauts came back to the third period ready to light it on fire and it showed. Taking advantage of an early power play, Buffalo began to break through on Ott, springing Kristin Lewicki and on a fast break and not long after, a full speed Maddie Elia. Again, Ott was in All-Star form, but penalty shortly after would put Buffalo on the power play and set up Buie on the goal line for a (nearly) no-angle shot that squeaked in past the Pride goaltender and tied things up at two.
"I remember [Coach] Craig saying, 'if you get it on the line, walk it in, and shoot it,'" Buie explained after the game. "So that's what I did; I got the puck and I just turned. I was kind of on the goal line, turned and shot it as fast as I could and I think it went short side and it hit off the post and went in and it couldn't have gone any better."
As the minutes ticked by, the teams continued to battle with Dana Trivigno and Jillian Dempsey procuring some of the most notable chances. But Leveille and Ott were not to be solved, and with a pair of late penalties (one for each squad), the horn sent the teams into overtime to determine their Isobel Cup fate.
Due to the carried over penalties from period three, the teams started the extra minutes with four skaters a side, the opening faceoff being controlled by the visitors. Almost immediately Bender broke in over the blueline with Sydney Daniels and Dempsey, but the puck was turned back the other way and Elia headed back the other direction toward Ott, along the close-side boards. Slowed down by a defender, Elia put on the brakes and turned the puck back toward an incoming player from the blueline; defender Sarah Casorso stepped into the pass, gathered it up and snapped it right over the shoulder of Ott to end the game and send the HarborCenter crowd into a frenzy.
"Maddie gave me a perfect pass," Casroso explained, "and the shot was there. All year I've been hitting posts and crossbars and when I heard that ding, I thought it went to the corner [and out]. It wasn't until I looked at [Colleen] Murphy and she was cellying."
"Did that go in?!" Casorso recalled thinking in disbelief. "It might have hit me a couple seconds too late, but yeah - I was just shocked. A good shocked!"
The goal was Casorso's first, and what a big goal it was. "She saved her first goal for the right time," said Seiling with a smile.
"I'm extremely proud of our team," Pride Head Coach Thomas Poek affirmed on the other side of the building. "It was a game for both teams, and we played really well in every aspect. Our players gave everything they have. As a coach, you can't ask for more than that. I thought this was a game that showed the best of the NWHL, with the skill, action and intensity and the incredible crowd here in Buffalo."
The crowd was certainly a factor, as not only the coaches but the players were quick to key in on.
"It was unbelievable," Buie admitted. "The crowd really helped us and it was just such a good atmosphere to play in."
Casorso agreed, "We got that adrenaline energy from them so really we should be thanking the fans because they were awesome."
"When you get a crowds like that," Seiling added, "and you give them something to cheer about, something to stand on their seat about - people came in here and got a ticket tonight, you can't tell me they weren't entertained, and that's what it's all about. Putting something on the ice that's entertaining and gives something to be proud of and that's all we try to do is make Buffalo proud of the Buffalo Beauts."
Additionally, in the crowd too, was Olympic gold medalist and two year captain of the Buffalo Beauts, Emily Pfalzer, who dropped the puck for a ceremonial opening faceoff and was met by countless proud, cheering hockey fans, from all over the league.
Moving forward, it will be a new pairing in the Isobel Cup Finals for the first time in NWHL history, with Sunday's meeting between the Metropolitan Riveters and the Connecticut Whale deciding who will take on the defending champs. In keeping with the announcement from earlier this season, the highest seed will host; therefore, should top seeded Metro prevail, Buffalo will make the journey to New Jersey, yet should the hard working Whale come out on top, the finals would return back to Buffalo.
It's been a long road this season, but if Saturday's game was any indication, the last few steps to the Cup will certainly be something to remember.
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National Women's Hockey League Stories from March 18, 2018
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