ALL PHOTOS BY SARA SCHMIDLE
The Buffalo Beauts took on the Connecticut Whale in their first home game at the HarborCenter since Oct. 13 and second home game of the season. Less than 24hours after the Beauts announced that the coaching staff of Ric Seiling and Craig Muni had been let go, and with interim head coach Cody McCormick unavailable due to a prior commitment, General Manager and interim assistant coach Nik Fattey assumed the duties behind the bench. The Beauts also celebrated their annual "Teddy Bear Toss" game.
"The girls are excited to just move forward through the rest of the season," Beauts forward Kelly Babstock told the media after the game. "We're here to play hockey, and we're excited to keep playing."
The game featured a return to Buffalo for NWHL defender Colleen Murphy. The Connecticut Whale added Murphy to their roster on a professional tryout, and she made her debut for "The Pod" on the road against the Beauts. Murphy was a defender for Buffalo during the 2017-18 season.
Shots through the first period were rather minimal, even if specialty teams saw a fair amount of action. The Beauts finished with six shots to Connecticut's two in the opening frame, despite having to kill multiple penalties. The Whale went to the power play early as Babstock got called for hooking at 3:55 of the first period. Shortly after she got out of the box, she went right back for a body checking at 6:07.
At 4:41, Meeri Räisänen had to make an unconventional save where she spun around and ended up facing backwards. With seemingly millimeters to spare she held onto it right at the goal line for a blown whistle. Räisänen then made a pointblank save on defender Sarah Edney who jumped into the play and dipsy-doodled through four Whale skaters. Though it was a remarkable save, a rebound came out. Play continued on and Räisänen would need to make two more stops as rebounds kept coming out and the Whale struggled to clear. Buffalo's Julianna Iafalloo pounced on a still loose puck in front of the net. With Räisänen already out of position from making the prior saves, Iafallo put the puck into a wide open net. Babstock and Dani Cameranesi picked up the assists on Iafallo's tally.
As the game headed into the second period Connecticut's Emily Fluke was already in the box for a call at the end of the first. While Buffalo did not convert on the power play, they maintained good pressure in the early minutes and kept the puck down low. Less than three minutes into the second period, defender Lisa Chesson controlled the puck behind the Whale's net and fed a pass out. Hayley Scamurra pounced on it and lifted the puck over Räisänen's shoulder into the net for 2-0 lead. Babstock picked up the secondary assist on the goal.
Having gathered the two assists on the evening, Babstock spoke as to how much this victory meant after the game. She acknowledged its importance with particular regard to the coaching change.
"It's huge," she told the media. "We have to come together and we did just that tonight. It showed just getting that W."
Despite giving up two early goals, Räisänen made multiple impressive saves in the second period. With 11 minutes to go in the period, she stonewalled Emily Janiga from three feet out using her left pad. All period long she continued to generate split saves and read the Beauts puck movement beautifully well. Räisänen turned aside a staggering 17 shots in the second period alone, and enabled the Whale to come back.
The Whale were able to narrow the margin to a 2-1 with 6:05 remaining in the second period. A shot from just above the hash marks by Fluke came towards Shannon Szabados but changed direction as it was tipped off of Katerina Mrázová's stick to extend her goal streak to five games.
Through the first 10 minutes of the third period, the game remained tight. Räisänen continued to keep very strong in net, stealing at least two sure goals away from the Beauts. The game remained close until Janiga buried a loose puck that came out front, blowing it by Räisänen with 9:42 left in the game to reestablish the Beauts' two-goal cushion. It was Janiga's first of the season with an assist to Annika Zalewski.
The score would remain as such, with Buffalo coming away with the 3-1 victory. Räisänen faced 35 shots in total, and turned aside 32 of them.
The Beauts assembled three solid periods on the ice and were rewarded with the victory. Buffalo's Emily Pfalzer was enthusiastic about getting a victory for the team under the new coaching staff.
"It's great that we pulled off a win," Pfalzer said, "and we all worked hard and had three awesome periods. Great to get a win."
Nate's Three Stars of the Game:
First Star: Kelly Babstock (BUF) 2 assists.
Second Star: Meeri Räisänen (CT) 32 saves
Third Star: Hayley Scamurra (BUF) GWG.