Buffalo Beauts celebrate a goal against team China in their first pre-season game. Photo By: Michael Hetzel
In the first of two preseason matches, the Buffalo Beauts topped Team China 4-2 at the Buffalo HarborCenter. The exhibition marks the first of the preseason for the NWHL’s third season and the first of a series of international matchups for the four franchises. In addition to several new faces making their debuts, the Beauts also showed off their new threads when the too the ice Monday evening.
The game was a fairly even matchup, with China dominating the early minutes and Buffalo the later minutes. Rachel Llanes, Team China (and former Boston Pride) forward won the opening draw on the opening preseason period and it set the tone for the following 20 minutes. Both teams spent the first few minutes battling in neutral territory until Buffalo’s Kristin Lewicki snuck through the slot forcing China’s netminder to make a point blank save nearly three minutes into the game.
In the 8th minute, China took the lead, with Llanes and Madison Woo setting up forward, Jessica Wong. Team China kept the pressure on, and continued to press the home team and were rewarded once again with a tally from Llanes for her second point on the night, with Zhixin Liu providing the helper. Although, Buffalo was not without chances, China held them scoreless and entered the locker room with a 2-0 advantage.
The second period saw a completely different Buffalo team, stymying nearly every China chance and notching three goals for themselves. Although both teams were penalized early in the second frame, Buffalo native Hayley Scamurra wasted little time getting the Beauts on the board once the teams were back to full strength. Not far behind, was Buffalo’s Corinne Buie with the equalizer with assists from some of her newest Beaut teammates, Jess Jones and Maddie Elia. Halfway through the period, China attempted to turn the tide on the power play, cycling the puck smoothly along the perimeter of the Buffalo zone, but to no avail.
The final point on the period belonged to Buffalo, and once again came as the teams returned to full strength. This time it was Sarah Edney getting her first chance to celebrate in the Beauts blues after a clean breakout starting with goaltender Julia DiTondo, and a relentless press all the way down the ice.
China began the third period on the powerplay after a held whistle concluding the second landed Buffalo’s Jessica Sibley in the box in the waning seconds of the period.
The teams continued to battle with China and Buffalo showing outstanding chemistry and puck movement on their respective power plays. Buffalo finally broke through on the power play around the midway point of the period to go up by two on a second goal from Buie following a two on one into the China zone, finishing top shelf beating the China goaltender.
As is not unlike Buffalo, as the game wore on, their chemistry and movement only seemed to improve, leaving China with fewer and fewer opportunities and a 4-2 win for the Beauts. The NWHL preseason continues Friday, with another international matchup between the Metro Riveters and Team Russia at the Barnabas Hockey House. The Connecticut Whale and Boston Pride will also get a try at Team Russia later in the preseason, which Buffalo will face off against the Buffalo Jr Sabres next Monday at the HarborCenter. Fans can purchase tickets online or at the door for their favorite teams - don’t miss a minute of the action!