Blake Bolden is no stranger to the Buffalo Beauts. She played two seasons for the Boston Pride before heading overseas last year. This year, she’s made her return to the NWHL, but this time, she’ll be suiting up in the home locker room at the HarborCenter.
After a 4-0 win over the Connecticut Whale in the season opener on Sunday, Bolden and the Beauts will open their home schedule this weekend, hosting the same Whale squad at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at the HarborCenter. Single-game tickets and season tickets are available at NWHL.zone/tickets.
“I heard a lot of positive noise about Buffalo, about all the fun and developmental things they were doing, and it just seemed like an easy match for me,” said Bolden. The Cleveland native also noted that being closer to home was big draw. “I wanted to be somewhere where my family could come see games,” she said.
Bolden was also lured by the talent she’d get to play alongside in Buffalo. The Beauts roster includes Team USA Olympians defenseman Emily Pfalzer, forward Dani Cameranesi and goaltender Nicole Hensley as well as Team Canada goaltender Shannon Szabados. Aside from Olympic talent, the Beauts roster also boasts 2018 NWHL Rookie of the Year Hayley Scamurra and rising star Maddie Elia, who each had two goals in the season-opening victory.
“The team is very skilled. It’s something I’m really excited about because I feel as though we have a very deep team – three solid lines, if not more,” said Bolden. With a laugh, she added: “They’re actually super tall, too. I’ve actually noticed that Buffalo is a super tall team. I’ve never been on a team where I had to look up -- literally look up -- to my forwards as a defenseman. So that’s pretty cool, too. We have size, speed and skill.”
And Bolden will fit in well. In her two seasons on the Boston blueline, she had 20 points (4-16-20) in 43 games. She got on the scoresheet in her first game in Beauts’ blue, setting up Scamurra’s second goal of the game.
Bolden debuted on the top defensive pair on Sunday with Savannah Harmon.
“Our D are solid,” she said. “Our pairs are just starting to get ironed out. We’re just seeing what works out. Harmon’s amazing.”
Despite the decisive win on Sunday, Bolden and the Beauts know the challenges that the Whale will pose when they meet again this weekend.
“They’re physical and they’re fast, so we just have to work on moving the puck up, moving the puck around and getting open in front,” Bolden said. “We did a good job of that on Sunday, so I think we just need to keep doing what we’re doing. If some things need to be changed, we’ll address it.”
The Beauts recognize, as well, that Connecticut will have extra motivation to spoil the Beauts’ home opener, just as Buffalo did theirs. “Obviously if I was Connecticut, I’d want to beat us in our [home opener],” said Bolden. “But we’re going to try to do this for the fans and for the betterment of our season, so we intend for that not to happen.”
Meanwhile, the buzz around Buffalo, and inside the HarborCenter, is growing as the Beauts prepare to come home Saturday. “This morning I saw some of the rink guys changing the logos around so it said ‘Buffalo Beauts’ everywhere, and I love that,” said Bolden. “I love that Buffalo, this town, is really embracing the Beauts. It’s really cool to see fans know who we are.”
And for Bolden, her first time as a member of the home team in Buffalo will be a special moment. “My family will get to come,” she said. “They haven’t seen me play in a while, so that’s just going to put a huge smile on my face.”