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Straighten the Crown: Count the stars

Defense and All-Stars and Friendlies? OH MY!

Michelle Jay

LOVE IS IN THE AIR, CROWNIES! Well...passion, at least. The intense feeling that you get when you pull on that sweater and take the ice against a heated rival. The kind of thing people love to loathe, right?

The NWHL is on a break as the US Women’s National Team takes on Hockey Canada in a series of winter friendlies.

The Beauts? No rest for the wickedly awesome. Eight members of the team took part in the NWHL All Star Game, and four of them shipped right up to the Great White North to join Team USA. Here’s what they’ve been up to since we last straightened the crown:

Getting defensive

Since Sarah Casorso hung up her skates on Jan. 12, Buffalo’s top pair has played A LOT of hockey. In order to keep things tight, coach Cody McCormick is essentially icing four defensive pairs, but doing so with only six blueliners.

Emily Pfalzer and Blake Bolden are playing their regular top line shift, followed by Lisa Chesson and Savannah Harmon. Then Pfalzer lines up with Jacquie Greco, and Bolden takes a shift with Jordyn Burns.

It has worked well in that the team continues to win, but the extra ice time seemed to have diminishing returns in the last road game. It is certainly a situation that will require monitoring as the season wraps up and playoffs begin.

Star light, star bright

With eight players in the NWHL ASG, it would have been difficult for Buffalo to have left the weekend without making their mark. The Beauts that travelled to Nashville left no doubt in the fans’ minds as they represented the Queen City in the grandest way.

First was Saturday’s skills competition, which saw Nicole Hensley take home fastest goalie, Dani Cameranesi win the accuracy challenge, Blake Bolden rip the hardest shot, and Shannon Szabados win the tiebreaker in a shootout.

Sunday’s game was more of the same. Szabados pitched a shutout through the first half of the game, while Lisa Chesson scored first for Team Stecklein. Szabados was named MVP for her efforts, after Team Szabados won the game...again, in a shootout.

Next level

Half of the Beauts’ ASG reps left Nashville for the cold climate of Ontario, Canada. Pfalzer, Cameranesi, Savannah Harmon, and Hayley Scamurra joined Team USA for a Tuesday night tilt against Hockey Canada. It was the first of a three-game series, with two matchups taking place in Canada and one in Detroit, Michigan.

The first game was an intense 1-0 victory for the American squad. The physical game was a goaltending battle, but hard work by Cameranesi and Harmon in the Canadian zone set up Hilary Knight for the game’s lone goal. Knight handed off to Cameranesi and streaked to the net. Cameranesi slid a pass to Harmon, who lofted a shot on the screened Emerance Maschmeyer. The puck trickled through and Knight banged it home.

Pfalzer and Scamurra also combined on an excellent shift, resulting in a scoring chance for the USWNT newcomer.

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The Beauts are back in action at home on Feb. 23 against the Metropolitan Riveters. It is the team’s final home game of the regular season; they will finish up on the road at Connecticut and New Jersey, respectively.