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Beauts Roundup: Feb. 11-18

All-Stars, suspensions, and announcements abound in a jam-packed week for Buffalo.

Kelley Steadman shows off some puck work during the NWHL All-Star Skills Competition Saturday, Feb. 11. The Beauts forward captained one of two teams, with Riveters star Amanda Kessel heading up the other. Steadman maintained her shooting accuracy title in the Skills Competition, hitting four targets in 14 seconds.
Pat McCarthy

It's been a jam-packed seven days for the Buffalo Beauts, from the All-Star festivities to a suspension to a couple of unexpected announcements. Here's the run-down:

  • Team Kessel pulled out a win in Pittsburgh at Sunday’s All-Star Game after taking an early lead in Saturday’s Skills Showdown. Harrison Browne was a big part of the action, scoring twice to give his team the lead. Kelley Steadman tried her best, but her team fell short at the buzzer. Emily Pfalzer also scored a goal for Team Kessel.
  • Steadman did, however, have her moment in the Skills Showdown. After Hilary Knight threatened her shooting accuracy title by hitting four targets in 14.1 seconds, Steadman went ahead and dropped the mic, getting four in—wait for it—14 seconds flat. Talk about clutch.
  • Browne took part in the Fastest Skater event and lost out in the first round to Blake Bolden. His strategy? “I got those little legs, so I just tried to move them as fast as I could. Didn't work, though,” he joked post-competition. Overall, he was happy to participate in his first All-Star weekend—and it definitely turned out to be a good showing for him in the end.
  • Megan Bozek was unable to defend her hardest shot title, giving it up to Bolden (who shot at a blistering 87 mph). She wasn't upset about it, though: “If I had to give it up to anyone, it would be Blake,” she said pre-game Sunday. “She and I have been good friends since we were eight years old, and I’ve always said from day one that she has the hardest shot in the league.”
  • During the festivities, goaltender Brianne McLaughlin casually announced that she would be retiring after the end of this season. McLaughlin has been part of the Beauts’ core group over the past season and a half, including playing her best hockey throughout the playoffs last year to upset Connecticut and head to the Isobel Cup. She’s also been a part of the U.S. Women’s National Team, winning Olympic silver twice with them.
  • McLaughlin’s Beauts and USA teammate Anne Schleper also announced her retirement from hockey late this week. Schleper had signed with the Beauts last offseason, but played in fewer than half (6/13) of this season’s games. Schleper announced her retirement via Twitter, and the league issued the following statement: “The NWHL and all of women’s hockey will miss Anne Schleper. We are grateful for everything she has given to the game. Anne is an outstanding hockey player and a kind and caring person, and we wish her the best on her journey."
  • Lastly, forward Devon Skeats has been issued a one-game suspension for her hit from behind on Riveters forward Alexa Gruschow during Feb. 4’s game in Newark. Skeats had apparently been issued two warnings for slew-footing incidents prior to her hit on Gruschow, which was her third strike. You can see the video explanation for her suspension here. Skeats will sit out tonight's matchup against Boston.

The Beauts are back in action Saturday against the still-undefeated Pride, where they have the chance to knock Boston off their game and perhaps gain some ground in the standings. There are just a handful of games left until the playoffs, so for the Beauts, that means finding their stride and sticking with it as soon as possible. The only consistent thing for Buffalo has been inconsistency, but if the Beauts can push aside some of the surrounding drama and focus on a strong last few games, they could well repeat last season’s Cup run.

Puck drop is at 6:30 p.m. at Warrior Ice Arena.