Accursi's Hat Trick Completes Beauts' Comeback Over Whitecaps
By Nathaniel A. Oliver
This afternoon, the Buffalo Beauts and the Minnesota Whitecaps faced each other for the second time in less than 24 hours. Sunday's matinee affair would have a much different outcome from Saturday night's 5-3 Whitecaps victory. This time, the Beauts were able to complete the comeback from a three-goal deficit fueled by a Taylor Accursi hat trick.
"I think today we had a way better first period," said Accursi. "I think that was a result of our momentum from yesterday's second and third periods. We really took that into today. Our second period slowed us down because of penalties, but we were really able to pick it up in the third period today and get the win."
Things started off the same as their previous meeting, with the Whitecaps again jumping out to an early lead. Skating four aside with Buffalo, Allie Thunstrom notched her fourth of the season at 10:50 of the first, with an assist going to Minnesota's Jonna Curtis. The helper was Curtis' 12th point of the season.
The Whitecaps were able to make it 2-0 at 2:49 of the second frame. With Buffalo's Kandice Sheriff and Meg Delay both serving minor penalties, Minnesota's Lisa Martinson fired one home past Buffalo goalie Mariah Fujimagari. The goal was the first of Martinson's NWHL career.
Curtis and Thunstrom would combine again early in the third period when Curtis converted at 5:30 of the third. Curtis' sixth goal of the season gave the visiting team a commanding 3-0 lead, but it did not last long.
Less than three minutes after the Curtis tally, Beauts captain Corinne Buie worked an energized rush up ice. Entering into the zone, Buie fed a cross-ice pass to Accursi who beat Amanda Leveille to get Buffalo on the board.
Only 22 seconds later, the Beauts would narrow the gap again by taking advantage of a Lauren Barnes' infraction. With heavy traffic in front of the Minnesota net, Buffalo's Iveta Klimášová snapped a long point shot that Erin Gehen tipped past Leveille to close Minnesota's lead to one.
Just over four minutes later, Accursi worked her magic once more to give the Beauts the tie with only 7:07 remaining in regulation. Skating confidently into the Minnesota zone, she wired a high shot into the top corner past Leveille.
With the Beauts working a late power play, Buie again set up Accursi who put the puck home while being parked at the side of the net. She completed her hat trick and sealed the deal for Buffalo with only 2:56 to go in the game.
"Fort Beaut" erupted in celebration as Accursi's hat-trick goal ended up being the game-winner. The score was the veteran winger's fifth goal of the weekend. She was the natural choice for the First Star of the game.
Fujimagari earned recognition as the Second Star in her second start of the weekend for keeping her team in the game and stopping 39 shots. Without her big stops, the Beauts would not have been able to rally in the third to stage an unforgettable comeback that is sure to be remembered as a true NWHL classic.
"I think, overall, it just goes to show the character in this locker room," said Fujimagari. "I think even more than the two points it shows how relentless we are, and how we don't just play for the scoreboard, we don't play for the time — we just continue to play our game, and we stick to our fundamentals. When we do, we have success. It's all about the process and just enjoying the journey."
The Beauts' next game is on the road against the Connecticut Whale on Saturday, Nov. 30th at 4:30 p.m. EST. You can watch all of the NWHL's games on twitch.tv/nwhl and twitch.tv/nwhl2.
Photo Credit: Mike Hetzel