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NWHL Stock Report: Back at it

What have we learned from Opening Weekend?

Al Saniuk

Who made a name for themselves in their NWHL debut? Who reaffirmed their status as veteran presence? Who had an opener to forget? It’s time once again for the NWHL Stock Report.

Trending up: Lenka Čurmová, BUF | First NWHL goal in 3-1 win vs CTW
Čurmová made all sorts of history in her first NWHL game. She scored the first goal of the 2019-20 season, her first of her North American professional career. It was also the first goal scored by a Slovakian player in NWHL history. Plus, it came on the power play. She was awarded VEDA NWHL Player of the Week honors for her efforts.

Not too shabby.

The Beauts were badly outshot in their opening game of the season against the Connecticut Whale and needed to be opportunistic. Čurmová provided some breathing room 5:20 into the first period. She and the Beauts’ defensive core also killed off seven Whale power plays, including a crucial two-minute 5-on-3 (more on that later).

Though the shots were badly slanted in the Whale’s favor (30-16), Buffalo did a solid job clogging shooting lanes and limiting looks to the perimeter as the game progressed.

Credit Čurmová for leading the way at both ends of the ice.

Trending down: Brooke Baker, MET | 3 giveaways, -2 in loss vs BOS
Baker registered an assist in the Riveters’ 4-2 loss to the Boston Pride. She unfortunately filled the stat sheet in far less flattering ways as well. She is tagged with three giveaways in the game, tied only by teammate Nichelle Simon for most by any player all weekend. She was also on the ice for three goals-against, all at even strength, including the game-tying and game-winning goals.

This particular goal isn’t directly Baker’s fault per se, but she certainly didn’t help matters with her effort defensively. As Alyssa Wohlfeiler skates into the far corner and stops to set up play, Baker (#7 in the video) gives only a cursory swing of the stick before giving up and making her way out to the point.

There might have been a rationale for that decision- that is, if she had kept her glove on. She loses her glove and is distracted, allowing Wohlfeiler to play pitch-and-catch with her defender Lexi Bender and activate the play leading to the equalizer.

Metropolitan did not lose because of Baker, to be clear. Dempsey diced the Riveters’ defense and scored two incredible goals off the rush as only she can. But the Riveters will need a fiercer defensive effort moving forward, especially when trying to wash the awful taste of last season out of their mouths.

Trending up: Jillian Dempsey, BOS | Two goals, GWG vs MET
Speaking of Jillian Dempsey, goodness gracious did she have a game against the Riveters. Dempsey has always been a fiend against Metro, but she really took it to them Saturday.

I mean, look at this. In a flash, she’s protected the puck, cut to the left and powered past the defender, and with seemingly no angle she puts one past Sam Walther the shift after Tori Sullivan’s tying goal for Boston.

Dempsey now has 31 career goals, the most in NWHL history. That number could skyrocket this season. The Pride will go as Dempsey goes, and she seems poised for a monstrous year.

She is on pace for a 48-goal season, after all.

Pictured: Jillian Dempsey slicing through defenses, excited Pride fans look on

Trending down: Connecticut’s power play | 0-for-7 vs BUF
The Whale had a gift-wrapped opportunity six minutes into the third period. With the game tied at one, Becki Bowering took a slashing penalty to give Connecticut the advantage. On the ensuing faceoff, Kim Brown was whistled for a hook. With a 5-on-3 advantage for nearly a full two minutes, the Whale got...nothing.

Look, it’s early in the season. Their head coach is currently in Canada fulfilling a prior engagement. They haven’t had a ton of practice time as a unit yet. A bad power play at this stage is forgivable. But it’s not wrong to have expected more out of power play quarterback Shannon Doyle. The veteran blueliner looked gun-shy on the attack, instead just alternating passes with wingers at the circles. There was hardly any traffic in front and not much movement in the offensive zone.

The Whale have not beaten the Buffalo Beauts since February 23rd, 2017. It certainly looks more possible this year than in years past, but a prime opportunity to get off to a good start was squandered last Saturday. I anticipate special teams will improve as the season wears on. It will have to if they want to win games.

Trending up: League goaltending | Four first starts last weekend
This was a phenomenal weekend for the NWHL’s goaltenders. Both matchups featured netminders making their first starts in the league. In fact, the only goalie to even be featured on an NWHL roster before was Sam Walther, who appeared for 11 minutes as a Whale in an early-season beatdown at the hands of the Beauts.

Mariah Fujimagari stopped 29 of 30 shots to steal a win from the Whale. Collegiate superstar Lovisa Selander made 23 saves in her first victory. Even in defeat, Walther and Sonjia Shelly made some monumental saves- Walther made 36 of them, Shelly 13 though they were mostly mid-to-high danger chances.

The one first-stringer who has yet to play a game this season? Amanda Leveille, reigning Isobel Cup Champ with the Minnesota Whitecaps. There’s been some fantastic play between the pipes already, and we haven’t even seen the most accomplished one play yet.