There’s a rumor that the weeks surrounding Christmas are the most wonderful time of the year, but we all know that’s not the case. Championship March, which will see the crowning of the NWHL, CWHL, and NCAA women’s champions, HAS to be the most wonderful time.
For the fourth consecutive season, the Buffalo Beauts will compete in the Isobel Cup Final for the right to heft Izzy’s handleless prize. They are the first team in North America professional women’s hockey to do so.
It’s been a long, strange road to this accomplishment. Coaching changes, management turnover, bad starts - despite the incredible talent, things weren’t looking great midseason. But the team pulled together, losing only once since Dec. 29 and finishing second in the standings. They edged out the Boston Pride by one point in the standings, and blanked the Pride 4-0 to take the semi-final game.
A queen, crowned
From joining the Nashville broadcast team, to All-Star MVP, to ESPN podcast guest, to the reigning burger monarch, it has been one heckuva month for Shannon Szabados.
The Beauts netminder was legendary before she came to the shores of Lake Erie, but her indelible mark was made that much wider as she took the league by storm this season. In one year, she became the second-winningest goaltender in Beauts history, and one of only three to have a postseason shutout in the league.
It is interesting how much impact a team’s goalie has had on the league-wide storyline in recent years. Brianne McLaughlin’s 60-plus save performance to secure the Cup, Katie Fitzgerald’s amazing entrance into the league and storied season, and now Szabados. She’s one Cup shy of an incredible storied first season.
On the road again
The Beauts are the only team to have competed in each of the Isobel Cup final matchups, and the only team to have competed that has yet to host a Final game.
They will have to wait until Friday to find out their opponent, but the league announced that the championship will he held at Minnesota’s Tria Rink no matter who emerges victorious.
It’s disappointing for Beauts fans who were holding out hope for an unlikely Metropolitan Riveters win, but the league’s reasons for making the decision were understandable under the circumstances.
Buffalo is one-for-three on the road - not a terrible record - and has a chance to even things up with a win.
She’s spent the last two seasons proving it to anyone that might ask, and she’s willing to fight anyone who may disagree; Maddie Elia is good at hockey. Like...really good. Her 17 goals in two years is second only to Madison Packer and tied with Jillian Dempsey - veteran leaders for their respective teams.
Elia and her linemates Hayley Scamurra and Dani Cameranesi were nearly unstoppable. The three combined for 26 goals and 54 points. By comparison, the Whale as a whole finished the year with 22 goals. The Riveters, with 32.
It’s a wonder that Elia was not nominated for a regular season award, nor was she elected to the All-Star game. She’s been a consistent scorer and an incredible faceoff threat for her team. She is the key component to an oppressive forecheck and Buffalo’s observably dominant possession strategy.
The season has come to an end. I want to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who has taken the time to read and interact with these pieces. Huge thanks to The Ice Garden for giving me the outlet. Here’s to a Beauts championship and a fun and exciting offseason.