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Road To Isobel: Part 2

By Linda Groff-Mroz, 04/22/17, 5:15PM EDT


If you missed part 1, find it HERE

SATURDAY – went down for breakfast and made sure the team knew what was going on. After breakfast, I packed up my gear, did a once over of my room, headed down to the bus to load my stuff on, and went back in the hotel. I grabbed the cooler and filled it with ice, told Seiling and Muni both that we needed to stop at a grocery store to grab snacks for the road since we were going to drive right to Boston, and because Seiling was able to get dinner reservations, we didn’t have to eat at the hotel. We were locked and loaded and on the road to Boston…Isobel here we come!

We arrived at the hotel with about an hour to freshen up for dinner, it was nice to get out of the hotel food routine and have a nice team dinner. The team toasted McLaughlin on her last game,it was sentimental for sure, and certainly put a lot of things in perspective for me.

SUNDAY – so we all know how superstitious I am, so I tried to do exactly what I did when we were going to play New York.  With the exception of the pregame skate, I pretty much stuck to my game-day routine.  I woke up, had my spark, put my gym clothes on, went down to breakfast, had a small bite to eat, hit the gym, ran and did some of the weights, back to the room to freshen up, did some work on my coaching credentials, went down for pregame meal, back up to the room, shower and got my gear on.  As I loaded the bus, my stomach was in absolute knots.  My anxiety was through the roof and I was not even dressing.  

Arrived at the rink and of course saw Carl, Boston’s equipment manager, gave him a huge hug because I have not seen him since opening weekend in Buffalo. I grabbed all of the gear off the bus –  skate sharpener, snacks, jersey bag…made sure who ever grabbed stuff on Friday were the SAME EXACT PEOPLE TO TAKE OUR GEAR INTO THE LOCKER ROOM (yes, I am that much of a superstitious person,) I know I should see someone about it, but it works, so leave it alone.

I set up the locker room and the skate sharpener next to Boston’s. It was nice to have two machines going, especially when 15 pairs of skates needed to get done.  I spent most of my time getting the skates done; however, I was able to take a moment to walk out on the ice with the Isobel Cup and create a pretty sweet picture with the goalie helmets on the goal line, Isobel between them and the net…pretty sweet picture…it was driving me nuts because I couldn’t space out the helmets evenly, but eventually it was there.  I took some more pictures, like of the jumbo-tron and the arena itself…I was imagining it being packed with screaming fans, playing in front of a sellout crowd would have been the icing on the cake.

Game time…I was able to get a great seat in the house so I could keep track of stats, but I was also able to reconnect with an old college team mate, Allison Coomey – she coaches at Boston University. It was great to catch up with Coom!  The puck dropped and so does my heart. Game on!  I was sitting above the ice looking down and just thought that whoever score the first goal is going to win the game – with all the hype of the game, Buffalo being the underdogs, Boston the unbeatable juggernaut of the league, it is just going to take one blast past either goalie to deflate either team.  Bozek’s blast did it – when she came over that blue line, I held my breath and BOOM! Back of the net. I threw my hands in the air and screamed!  Beauts goal, Beauts goal, Beauts goal!  Boz buried another one of her blasts putting Beauts on the board first.

Boston came back at the Beauts hard, firing shots from everywhere, but McLaughlin was on fire between the pipes.  Janiga put in Beauts second goal and Beauts were up 2 to 0 at the end of the first.  I ran down to give the stats to Seiling and Muni…had a few pairs of skates to touch up and back to my spot for the second.  Boston was unloading everything they had, but the Beauts stuck to the game plan, blocking shots, throwing themselves in front of everything, clearing rebounds Bri didn’t snag herself, moving people out of the house; it was like everything clicked that we had been working on all season.  Then Buie got a break coming out of the Beauts zone, down into Boston’s pulled a move and slipped it past the goalie – 3 to 0 Beauts!  End of the second.  Again I ran down to give the stats to Seiling and Muni…just 20 more minutes and the Cup is ours. But a lot can happen in 20 minutes.  I headed back up to my spot, taking the same exact path as the previous two periods (yes, exact) and set up for the stats and puck drop for the third. With about 10 minutes to go I realized I hadn’t kept a shot or faceoff stats in minutes, so I just concentrated on the clock and the game.  Skeats took a penalty and I had a funny feeling, but held my breath.  Boston would put one in with about four minutes to go in the game. There was still plenty of time and Boston was coming at the Beauts even harder at this point, I mean…it’s do or die. Two minutes to go and I start to make my way down stairs to be with Kayla Parsons and Kelsey Neumann.  I ran as far as I could and stopped with the play was going on, once stopped, I ran as far as I could…I eventually made it downstairs with about one minute to go.  Parson, Neumann and I all held hands and watched the clock count down.  Funny little rebound popped out and Hilary Knight popped it in, 3 to 2 Beauts, with four seconds to go…the game is ours, the game is ours.

4…3…2…1 – the doors flung open, Parson and Neumann took off for the goalie crease with the rest of the Beauts and I headed right for the coaches…thank goodness I wore my purple docs, easy on the ice…I ran right into Seilings arms and squeezed tight, screaming…pretty sure he’s deaf now, sorry Ric.  Then gave Muni a huge hug and then, of course our trainer Nate.  It was an amazing moment for me.  Yes I cried. After seeing how hard these woman work, day in and day out; losing some games by one goal, getting frustrated, but always bouncing back…Buffalo Beauts win the Isobel Cup!

TIME TO CELEBRATE!  I walked into the locker room once pictures were done on the ice, carrying sticks and the entire room was draped with plastic, it was almost like a scene from Dexter.  Bottles of champagne were everywhere…I changed quickly into my bus gear and sneakers and started to load the bus with our gear.  Once the girls got into the locker room it was champagne showers!  Drinking from the cup, spraying champagne and throwing goldfish crackers everywhere – it was insane.  The screaming, hugging, laughter, passing the cup around, it was an unbelievable feeling. Not only did we come to Boston, but to be such an underdog team, it was a Cinderella story for sure.  What we started last year; after coming in and losing to Boston, it was our year for redemption and to chase that crown, and now being crowned champions, it is a moment in my hockey career (player, administrator, fan, for the love of the game) that I will cherish forever.

I cleaned up the locker room as best as I could, loaded the bus and we headed home to Buffalo.  The party on the bus lasted until like 4am…I’m shocked I was able to get 30 minutes of sleep, but I needed a little bit, knowing full well there would be news crews at the Northtown Center waiting for us.  Krusher and 3 super fans were there to greet the bus at 6am Monday morning.  The girls unloaded from the bus and were gracious to do interviews with the news crews; I was able to muster enough common sense to answer some questions, but I knew I was a hot mess.  Especially when friends took pictures of the TV and posted on facebook, you know who you are…all I have to say is KARMA!

FINAL THOUGHTS – I’ve been posting on facebook since it happened how incredibly proud of this team, overcoming so many obstacles this season, able to come together for the final three games, chase the crown, chase a dream and make it happen.  It was worth every headache, every ulcer, every breakdown because of stress, I wanted to make sure I did my job so they could do theirs – bringing home the first hockey championship to Buffalo was worth all of it and then some.  What would I do differently you might ask me…nothing to be frank and honest.  If I were to change anything about this year, we might not be having the same conversation about being champions.  I count my blessings and have to say it’s not every day that you can say you were part of something so great as being part of a professional organization, dressing for warm-ups, being part of a team for a hot minute, and walking out of a season as a champion.  Even now as I’m sitting at my computer telling my story, I’m tearing up, and as I take a deep breath waiting to wake up from this dream, one thing is for sure – I am part of the NWHL, I am a Buffalo Beaut and I am a champion.