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#ItsAllForIsobel – Nicole Rao Makes the Case for Another Title for Buffalo

By Nicole Rao, 03/24/18, 11:00AM EDT

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Photo By Michelle Jay

With the days ticking down to hours, the Isobel Cup Final, the grand finale of season three, and a true battle of titans nearly upon us, who emerges victorious on Sunday may be a whole lot more complicated than you’d think.

This time last year, I was asked why the Beauts would win the 2017 Isobel Cup. On paper, that day I wasn’t sure how to answer, because the statistics told me that it wasn’t in the cards. But playoff hockey is a funny thing. At the end of the regular season, we wipe the slate clean, and the game turns into something far beyond the tallies that we analyze game in and game out.

It extends past all of the pains and trials, the goals and big saves. It was the things that didn’t make the stat sheet that told me what that team last March was made of and what they might accomplish. It’s a determination, a grit, an unexplainable chemistry with the people you come to call your team and family, an ability to take all of that learned experience and channel it – to live in the “zone” and just simply play. To be honest, it’s kind of, well… magical.

The 2018 Isobel Cup Final looming, I was asked again if the Beauts would go on to repeat. Although a semifinal victory and their recent win streak heading into the postseason provide all the statistics one might need for an easy response, it wasn’t the numbers that came to mind. Instead, much like the team of blue warriors who descended on Boston just a little over a year ago, it is the immeasurable factors that are what set these athletes apart.

The roster has seen a few changes, and the veterans have an invaluable experience to draw from – none perhaps as much as captain Corinne Buie, the only two time Isobel Cup champion and owner of the 2017 Cup-winning goal.

“We have such good leaders like Buie,” netminder Amanda Leveille noted after last weekend’s win. “Everyone provides something special and brings something unique to the table for our team.”

It’s true, and Leveille may very well have just pointed out perhaps the most dangerous part of the Buffalo game. Team.

The 2017-18 Buffalo Beauts did not overwhelmingly hijack each of the top slots across the league’s statistics, but rather maintained a solid, even smattering of players across the board who have shown the ability to produce, and in all types of situations. On any given night, a different set of stars emerge and it’s an honest testament to the level of skill and talent that run so deep in the baby blues.

“No one’s selfish, as you can see on our stats,” Buie acknowledged. “Individual accomplishments aren’t on my mind. This is a team game and I’m ready to play that last game with our team.”

Talented as they may be, each Beaut has made their moments of success a matter of the sum of their parts and a credit to the person beside them.

“We’re just so well-rounded,” defender Sarah Casorso noted. “We have the grinders, the scorers, the playmakers, but everybody kind of has an intangible niche and it’s all the way through the team and all three lines are solid that way. I think we all complement each other well and we’ve got a good backstop back there. Lev has been huge for us this year and we rely on her a ton.”

After an incredible final push to the playoffs and a gutsy come-from-behind semifinal win, the Beauts certainly have all the tools it takes. Looking at the head to head stats from the regular season, do the Beauts have the numerical advantage? Maybe not, but as anyone who has watched these athletes over the past several months will attest, these are competitors in every sense of the word.

Last season's Beauts embodied a resilience, determination and relentlessness that had the ability to create a perfect storm of (from what many on the outside may have thought to be unlikely) iconic champions. That team personified “heart.”

After last season, I didn’t know if it was possible to improve on a near fairytale season finale, but what I’ve come to learn about this particular team of Beauts is that they always have one more trick up their sleeve.

Who takes Sunday’s showdown? Rookie Kristin Lewicki may have said it best:We are ready and excited, we know what we have to do.”