Kourtney Kunichika Takes a Face-off against David Bunn V. Photo By: Michael Hetzel
The NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts wrapped their second and final 2017-18 preseason game Monday evening, with a 9-4 loss to the Buffalo Junior Sabres at the Buffalo HarborCenter. Despite a handful of special team opportunities, each of the thirteen goals were scored in even strength situations. Goaltenders Andrew Doran and Luke Pavichich split the netminder duties for the Junior Sabres, while returning Beaut Amanda Leveille faced all 60 minutes and made just shy of 50 saves on 57 shots (averaging nearly a shot per minute throughout the game).
In similar fashion to last Monday’s contest against Team China, the first period favored the Beauts’ opponents by a two goal margin, this time with tallies by Matthew Yeager and Nathan Mann. Despite the two goal deficit, the Beauts showed some spark early on, particularly from the aggressive play of their centers, with Kourtney Kunichika winning six draws, and newcomer Jessica Sibley winning eight in period one alone.
Period two saw the Buffalo Junior Sabres tack on another goal and jump out to a quick three goal lead, but a penalty to Junior Sabre Samuel Saccone soon began to turn the tide for the Beauts. The Beauts took full advantage of the powerplay throwing shots to the net from (among others) Kaylyn Schroka, Katherine Donohue; as the penalty expired, the Beauts refused to relent and eventually a faceoff win by Sibley would turn into the Beauts’ first goal on the night for Kristin Lewicki. It seemed as if Lewicki’s goal sparked a second wind for the Beauts as the shots more than doubled from the first period to the time the second period would conclude. But before the horn sounded, Lewicki once again found a way to beat Junior Sabre goaltender Pavichich, putting the Beauts within one and adding her name to the scoresheet for the second time that night.
With just over four minutes remaining in the period however, the Junior Sabres’ Mann added one final second period tally before heading into the locker room for the intermission, this being his second goal and third overall point of the game thus far. At the close of the period, the Junior Sabres were showing no signs of slowing down and had recorded 36 shots on goal - Leveille having made 32 stops with still 20 minutes of play remaining.
The third period was nonstop action, resulting in five Junior Sabre goals (the first, just under ten seconds into the frame) from McDonnell, Saccone, Bell and two more from Mann. But in true Beauts style the baby blues showed they still had a lot of fight left in them, adding two goals themselves from Sarah Shureb (from Sarah Casorso) and Maddie Elia (from Jacquie Greco and Corinne Buie) - less than a minute apart from one another.
Despite a lopsided score, the Beauts used the matchup to continue to grow, developing some budding chemistry between veteran and rookies alike, which if history is any indicator, it puts them right where they need to be as the regular season inches closer.
Across the league, the next week will see the other three NWHL franchises take on Team Russia in their remaining preseason matchups before the official regular season openers on October 28th in New Jersey and Connecticut (where the Beauts will open up on the road against the Whale). Tickets for the upcoming preseason and regular season games are available online!