Buffalo Beauts celebrating a goal. Photo by: Michael Hetzel
The Buffalo Beauts couldn’t have had a sweeter end to their Sophomore season, with a storybook championship Cup resulting from a fantastic cast of characters and the perfect storm of events. Despite some inevitable changes (due to the announced retirements of fan favorites Brianne McLaughlin and Harrison Browne), Buffalo has a strong core of hard working and talented athletes who are more than capable of maintaining a championship culture and recreating the magic of the 2017 Isobel Cup Playoffs.
As is often the case with successful teams, Buffalo’s jigsaw of chemistry in 2016-17 highlighted the strengths of each of the athletes from the front line to the paint. With summer just around the corner, fans will be eagerly awaiting the offseason announcements and signings as the 2017-18 teams begin to take shape. For Beauts fans, a few names are likely high on their wish lists.
All-Star captain, Kelley Steadman, has been a "steady" (hehe) contributor to the Beauts’ offense over the past two seasons and her veteran presence certainly does not go unnoticed. Her ability to produce in high pressure situations has made her dynamic style of play something that gets fans on their feet and makes her a player to never take lightly as soon as she steps on the ice.
Signing Steadman, though important, could prove tricky, as she resides three hours away in the Pittsburgh area. She's made the trip for the past two seasons while working at RMU and has missed games due to commitments there, but the power forward's presence and passion for the game in the games she could attend made all the difference for the Beauts and it's something the team would love to see back on the ice.
On defense, veteran Sarah Casorso would be an amazing re-sign, and nobody loves the Beauts-blue like she does. Throughout the season, the blueliner took her share of blocked shots (13) and added eight assists, half of which coming in special teams situations. Her patience with the puck and decision making in her own zone are invaluable parts of Buffalo’s defensive core and may be increasingly valuable as the Beauts’ defense continues to evolve.
Buffalo made some impressive acquisitions around this time last year and since their arrival, it is hard to imagine them in anything but baby blue. Forwards Corinne Buie and Shiann Darkangelo made their way to the Queen City from the rival Boston and Connecticut franchises, respectively. Both Buie and Darkangelo were hard to miss, being staples on the boxscores in nearly each and every game. Buie led the league in power play goals (5, with an additional 2 assists on the man advantage), supplied the game winner in the Cup finals (for her 17th point on the season), and added an impressive 17 blocked shots on the season - a true two way player and an asset to an ever growing Buffalo team.
Similarly, Darkangelo racked up 16 points on the season (earning nearly a point per game), ranked third in the league in shots on goal, and developed a strength in the faceoff circles. Her speed and ability to see the ice not only makes her potent with the puck, but opens up the ice to make her linemates equally as dangerous.
However, Darkangelo is in a similar situation as Kelley Steadman and does not live locally. Fingers-crossed this doesn't factor too heavily in her decision, and we see her back at HARBORCENTER this fall.
Another big signing last season could once again be a huge difference maker for the Beauts. Last season, Buffalo had the advantage of two very capable netminders and goaltending duties were split down the middle. Following the 2017 finals, McLaughlin’s superhuman 60+ save game made well earned headlines across the hockey world; however, it was the work of rookie Amanda Leveille who sealed the deal in the semi-finals with 34 saves against New York to send the Beauts to their iconic showdown with Boston. Leveille’s composure under pressure and outstanding athleticism make her another Beaut that will be watched closely this offseason.
One of the keys to season number three, might very well be Western New York’s own Hayley Scamurra. The recent Northeastern graduate made her NWHL debut at the tail end of the Beauts regular season and was instantly a factor in Buffalo’s success throughout their playoff run. In only three professional games, the young forward added five points and two blocked shots - an unbelievable feat and one that should she replicate in a full season situation, will easily earn her a spot near the top of the league standings in 2017-18.
Although still several months out from the first puck drop in the fall, fans are undoubtedly hoping that Christmas will come early in the form of signings by their favorite Beauts.