PHOTO BY MATTHEW RANEY
In a game that featured the NWHL debuts of two goaltenders, the Buffalo Beauts defeated the Connecticut Whale, 4-0, in the season openers for both teams at Terry Conners Ice Rink in Stamford. Nicole Hensley battled Meeri Räisänen and came out on top, despite Räisänen having to work harder than Hensley did throughout the game. Hensley finished with 10 saves for her first NWHL shutout and Räisänen was heroic in defeat, stopping 34 of the 38 shots she faced.
In the first period, the Beauts took control of the game when Maddie Elia started her sophomore season as a pro with a bang. The Boston University grad potted both of Buffalo’s first period tallies in a span of 2:31, and her linemates assisted on both goals. Her line, with Hayley Scamurra (the 2018 Rookie of the Year) and Dani Cameranesi (a gold medalist with the USWNT at the 2018 Winter Olympics) was dominant throughout the opening 20 minutes and the Beauts took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission behind a 16-4 shot advantage.
”We have a good team and I think we showed it today,” Elia said afterward. “I’m playing with Hayley and Dani — two of the best players in the league, so I was just in the right spot at the right time and put it in the net.”
The lead could have been extended a few times during the second period if not for the goaltending display from Räisänen, namely when she robbed former Whale star Kelly Babstock (playing her first game in Beauts blue) three separate times in the middle frame. Hensley wasn’t tested much through two periods, needing only seven saves through 40 minutes, but her best stop came point blank on new Connecticut captain Emily Fluke (on a late power play) that could have cut the Buffalo lead in half.
“It was a little rough at the start but when we got going, pushed through and I thought we battled hard,” said Connecticut rookie Michelle Löwenhielm after the tough loss. “We have to play a full 60 minutes.” Löwenhielm and her teammates were perfect on the penalty kill, stopping Buffalo four times on the afternoon.
In the third period, Scamurra added to the lead with an unassisted goal at 4:17 and then finished the scoring at 17:08, giving her a four-point game. The two teams will square off again next weekend in Buffalo’s home opener at the HarborCenter.
3 Stars of the Game:
1) Maddie Elia (Buffalo): 2 goals, game-winner
2) Hayley Scamurra (Buffalo): 2 goals, 2 assists
3) Meeri Räisänen (Connecticut): 34 saves