First up on our list of the NWHL Top Rookies is Maddie Elia of the Buffalo Beauts. She was integral to the team’s success all season, as the Beauts reached their third Isobel Cup Final in as many years. Elia originally hails from Lewistown, N.Y., essentially making the Beauts her hometown franchise. The Beauts selected her 18th overall in the 2016 NWHL Draft.
“Being by drafted by the Beauts and signing with them is a huge honor and accomplishment. It’s super cool and exciting to be able to play for my hometown team because I love it here and it’s such a great place to live,” said Elia in a league press release. “Playing college hockey in Boston, it was hard for my friends and family to make it to my games, so it’s awesome that they will be able to travel 10 minutes to watch me play for the Beauts.” At Boston University, Elia posted a career 47 goals and 65 assists in 145 games for the Terriers.
This season with the Beauts, Elia earned a spot on the top line alongside veteran Kourtney Kunichika and eventual Rookie of the Year Hayley Scamurra. The trio each posted 14 points in the regular season. She recorded five goals and nine assists in the regular season and picked up the primary assist on the game-winning goal in Buffalo’s 3-2 OT win over Boston in the semifinals.
“As far as skill goes, I would match her with any player in the league as far as hands go,” co-head coach Craig Muni told The Ice Garden ahead of the 2018 Isobel Cup Final. “I think she could have the best hands in the league ... some of the moves she has for a big, tall, lanky player usually don’t go hand in hand. You would think of her more of a power forward when you first see her in her skating. But ... you watch her in a game, and her puck skills are phenomenal; and the plays that she makes. Kinda puts you on the edge of your seat every time she has the puck.”
Elia is listed at 5’10”, making her one of the taller players in the league. At times, her size and physical style of play made her the villain of opposing team’s fans. The Beauts and the Riveters had a notorious heated rivalry this season, sparked by a 6-2 Beauts loss in Rochester. The teams combined for over 60 minutes of time on 28 infractions. Yikes!
Elia racked up only four of those penalty minutes but was suspended later in the season against — you guessed it — the Metropolitan Riveters. “Maddie plays more with an edge,” added Muni. “Sometimes you don’t know if she’s gonna cross the line, when she’s going to cross the line; and she gets pretty emotional on the ice.”
Elia is not the first, nor will she be the last hockey player to bring a bit of edge to the ice. Physical play is a requirement for hockey, and some players are able to add some gamesmanship in that way.
So yeah, Elia might throw you an unsavory hit or get in your face! But, she’s also proven she can score. She tied with her linemates for most points on the Buffalo Beauts and tied with Scamurra and Koelzer (both All-Star MVPs) for second most points among rookies. Jenny Ryan led all newbies with 16 points for the Riveters (spoiler alert: all three are on this top-five list). One way or another, Elia’s game will make you feel ... something. I am here for it all!