Photo By Michael Hetzel
Winning the opening draw, the Beauts attacked from the beginning, sending Lisa Chesson and Taylor Accursi charging in on goal within the opening seconds of the game. Pride rookie netminder, Brianna Laing in her first start in her NWHL career, was up to the task, expertly turning away the first of 42 shots on the night.
In the early minutes, both teams had their share of chances with the Beauts trying to force Laing to scramble in the paint with some heavy pressure low in the Pride zone followed by Leveille coming up big on a dangerous three on one at the other end. As the period wore on however, Buffalo began to find their groove and maintained strong possession, denying the Pride opportunities to score.
“I think the [holiday] break was good for us,” reflected Sarah Edney after the game. “We came out with a lot of energy; I think the first period was the best period that we’ve played all year, so that was exciting.”
That energy paid off as Accursi fed a pass to Jess Jones in the slot who fought off a Pride defender to sneak a backhand by Laing for the Beauts first goal. The Beauts continued to press, but Laing staved off the home team until the end of the frame. With the period nearing the end, Boston showed they were still in the fight with Janine Weber and Mary Parker teaming up to try and rattle Leveille with one final rush but to no avail.
Much like the opening frame, the Beauts charged in on Laing right off of the draw, but a successful penalty kill seemed to jump start the Pride. Nearly seven minutes into the second period, the Pride rushed down the ice and Weber was quick to pick up a rebound and put the puck into the back of the net to tie the game at one. But the tie didn’t last long. Just over two minutes later, Beauts Hayley Scamurra answered back raising the puck just over Laing and the Beauts back over the Pride by a goal to end the period up 2 -1.
Down by a goal, the Pride stepped into the third period hungry, stepping up their presence on the Beauts puck carriers. Their pursuit and persistence were rewarded as Weber once again found the back of the net off of a clean feed from Paige Harrington on the rush. Deadlocked at two, the teams were back on level ground but neither could break through and forced an extra frame.
The Beauts began the overtime period on the advantage (carried over from a late third period Pride penalty), but were unable to convert on the power play. But Beauts Kaylyn Schroka broke through nearly a minute later at even strength to sneak the winner by Laing and give the home team the win.
The two teams now sit only two points apart in the standings, both chasing the Metropolitan Riveters, who will be sending a significant troop to Florida to represent Team NWHL for the upcoming Olympic warm-up matches with Team USA.
“It’s really good hockey,” noted Edney of the upcoming contests. “They’re at the top of their game and they leave in a few weeks to go [to the Olympics], so that’s really exciting. I think that the hockey is really good and it’s going to be really, really competitive. Just looking at the roster from other teams, it’s going to be exciting to play with different players that we play against too.”
In addition to the USA and NWHL games, next weekend will also feature a return to Pittsburgh for the NWHL with the Buffalo Beauts taking on the Connecticut Whale; which is sure to be an outstanding matchup following last season’s All-Star festivities in the Steel City.