On Jan. 7, the Buffalo Beauts parted ways with Canadian defender Sarah Edney. Edney joined the Beauts before the 2017-18 season after playing two seasons in the CWHL with the Brampton Thunder. According to the Beauts’ tweet about Edney’s release/retirement, this was something that the club and player had agreed to before the current season began.
The Buffalo Beauts have announced that defenseman Sarah Edney has played in her final game this season. This decision was mutually agreed upon prior to the season.— Buffalo Beauts (@BuffaloBeauts) January 7, 2019
We wish Sarah the best of luck in her next chapter, as she moves to Australia to attend dental school! pic.twitter.com/lmFj3gu0i1
Since joining the Beauts, Edney has been a mainstay on the blue line. She will likely be best remembered for her big two-point game against the Boston Pride in the 2018 Isobel Cup Playoffs, in which she opened the scoring for the Beauts in the first period and picked up an assist on Corinne Buie’s game-tying power play goal in the third. Before that performance, Edney picked up two goals in the Beauts’ regular season finale against the Connecticut Whale to keep the team’s winning streak rolling into the postseason.
This season, Edney has played in all 10 of Buffalo’s games to date. She was playing primarily with Sarah Casorso on the Beauts’ third pair and had the third-highest plus/minus (+6) among the Beauts defenders. Edney may have had just one assist this season, but, according to Even-Strength.com, she had the highest Game Score and estimated Time on Ice (eTOI) on Buffalo’s blue line last season. She is definitely going to be missed.
With Edney leaving the team to attend dental school in Australia, the Beauts now have the smallest roster in the NWHL. Buffalo now has 21 players under contract, including just seven defenders. Her departure has created an opportunity for veterans Jacquie Greco and/or Jordyn Burns to earn a regular spot in the Beauts’ roster.
Burns and Greco have both been with the Beauts since the 2016-17 season. They also both have experience playing forward and defense. Burns, like Edney, is left-handed and should be a natural fit to fill in on the left side on Buffalo’s third pair alongside Casorso. However, Greco has been the more impactful player thus far in her NWHL career.
Greco has generated far more shots than Burns in the NWHL, which should definitely count for something on a team that is looking to get more offense out of its defense. Her combined Game Score from the previous two seasons combined is also higher than Greco’s. It’s also worth noting that Greco had 10 goals in her senior season at Syracuse University in 2012-13. Burns, a native Minnesotan, scored six goals in her three seasons of NCAA hockey split between Syracuse and the University of Minnesota.
It’s hard to say which player is the more natural or reliable defender, but it appears that Greco played more defense in college than Burns. If she gets the first crack at replacing Edney — which seems likely given that she’s dressed in three regular season games this year — the Beauts would have three lefties and three righties on the blue line.
Regardless of who interim head coach Cody McCormick plugs into the lineup, the Beauts are now faced with a somewhat pressing need to add another defender to the roster. If Buffalo suffers an injury on the blue line, they will be down to just six skaters who have significant experience playing defense. Meghan Fonfara, Buffalo’s other frequently scratched skater this season, is a rookie forward out of Elmira’s D-III program.
The Beauts selected two defenders in the 2018 Draft — Olivia Zafuto and 2018 Olympic gold medalist Megan Keller — but it’s unlikely that either of them will be available to join the roster before the NWHL Playoffs are over. Now that former general manager and assistant coach Nik Fattey has left the team, Buffalo’s next general manager should consider signing another defender. After all, the Beauts have the most roster spots available in the league.