NWHL 2019 Isobel Cup Final: Beauts with momentum, aim for history Sunday

first_imgWhat a night! #IsobelCup pic.twitter.com/PS49iPSGUL— Buffalo Beauts (@BuffaloBeauts) March 10, 2019Back in June, Pegula Sports and Entertainment — the owners of the Buffalo Beauts — made tidal waves when they signed 2018 Olympians Dani Cameranesi, Nicole Hensley and Shannon Szabados and re-signed star rookies, Maddie Elia and Hayley Scamurra. Two months later, the Beauts grabbed headlines again when they signed Team USA star Emily Pfalzer and former Boston Pride All-Star defender Blake Bolden.The star-studded roster made Buffalo an early favorite for the Isobel Cup but then the regular season got off to an underwhelming start as the squad went 3-3-0. Then, on Dec. 7, coaches Ric Seiling and Craig Muni were relieved of their duties. Former Buffalo Sabres forward Cody McCormick assumed the role of head coach and acting general manager Nik Fattey joined him behind the bench as an assistant. One month later, John Vogl of the Athletic reported that Fattey had resigned as the team’s general manager. McCormick took up the mantle of general manager on Jan. 11.Changes continue with the Buffalo Beauts. GM Nik Fattey has left the team one month after the firing of coaches Ric Seiling and Craig Muni. pic.twitter.com/wpZMvB5EMI— John Vogl (@BuffaloVogl) January 8, 2019Just five days after McCormick was given his new position, the Buffalo News reported that Fattey and fellow HarborCenter executive Michael Gilbert resigned due to allegations of sexual harassment. Fattey denied those allegations through his attorney.Despite the changes, the Beauts carried on and won. Buffalo went on a seven-game win streak beginning Dec. 30 and the wave of momentum persisted even after the mid-season departures of blueline staples Sarah Edney and Sarah Casorso. In fact, the 4-0 semifinal victory against Boston on March 9 was Buffalo’s eighth victory in the last nine games and secured the team’s perfect 8-0-0 record at HarborCenter this year.🚨: @EmilyPfalzer🍏: @HScamurra🍎: @DaniCam92-0 Beauts | 3:58 | 2nd pic.twitter.com/jeer4RWj4v— Buffalo Beauts (@BuffaloBeauts) March 10, 2019The Beauts’ offense is powered by the best first line in the NWHL. Elia, who serves as the center, is an MVP finalist while her wingers — Scamurra and Cameranesi — have both been named to Team USA’s roster for the IIHF 2019 Women’s World Championship. As a trio, Elia, Scamurra and Cameranesi scored a combined 26 goals in the regular season, which is four more goals than the entire Connecticut Whale roster this season.With a high-powered line, add in this stat: before McCormick stepped behind the bench, the Beauts averaged 31.50 shots for per 60 minutes (SF60) and 23.67 shots against per 60 minutes (SA60). At the end of the regular season, those rates had improved to 33.95 SF60 and 21.60 SA60. No NWHL team generated more shots on goal or allowed fewer shots on goal than McCormick’s Beauts. Needless to say, this team is a well-oiled machine. Now, as impressive as the Beauts’ offense is, the team’s greatest strength is its defense and goaltending. Szabados is universally considered the best goaltender in the world and has the numbers to prove it. The Goaltender of the Year and Newcomer of the Year finalist stopped all 31 shots she faced in the Isobel Cup Semifinal. She was the only goaltender to shutout the Boston Pride this season. After dismantling the Boston Pride in the Isobel Cup Semifinals, the Buffalo Beauts will be playing in the NWHL’s Isobel Cup Final for the fourth consecutive season.A friendly reminder, the NWHL has only been in existence for four seasons. SHANNON FREAKING SZABADOS WITH THE GLOVE!!! 🔥😱 #NWHL pic.twitter.com/qLvKRUL1GX— Women’s Sports Highlights (@WSportHilites) December 29, 2018Playing in front of Szabados and her goaltending partner Nicole Hensley might be the best defensive pair in professional women’s hockey. Bolden and Pfalzer are a smooth-skating duo who are just as good with the puck as they are without it. Bolden finished the season as one of the league’s top scoring defenders and recently received a nod as a finalist for the league’s Defender of the Year.“We both have a lot of trust in each other,” Bolden told Sporting News at the close of the regular season regarding her chemistry with Pfalzer. “We played with each other at Boston College, so we’re a great match. We have a lot of fun out there on the ice.”With the Isobel Cup Final just days away, momentum and confidence are definitely on Buffalo’s side. The squad is now one win away from further establishing itself as the NWHL’s premier franchise and the only club with two Isobel Cup titles. However, they’ll face a tough task, because regardless of who emerges as the victor of Friday’s semifinal between the Metropolitan Riveters and Minnesota Whitecaps, the Beauts will have to do something they didn’t do all season — win a game in Minnesota.last_img read more