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2018-19 NWHL Season Recap: Buffalo Beauts

Third championship loss casts cold shadow on individual accolades

Michelle Jay

Record

The Buffalo Beauts ended the 2018-19 season with an 11-4-1 record, taking second place in the standings by the one point. It was the second consecutive season that Buffalo attained second place, and they were just one point off of the pace from last year’s 12-4 finish. Early losses to the Minnesota Whitecaps and Boston Pride tainted the season, but also catalyzed a series of changes that would redefine the team.

Stats Leaders

Hayley Scamurra finished the season leading the league in points, with 20 (10 goals, 10 assists). Maddie Elia finished top of the league in goals with 12; defender Blake Bolden led the Beauts in with a dozen assists — good enough for second in the NWHL.

Goaltenders Shannon Szabados and Nicole Hensley split time and split traditional goalie stat categories. Szabados had a slight edge in goals against (1.49 to Hensley’s 1.50) and Hensley bested Szabados in save percentage by the slightest of margins, posting a .935 against Shannon’s .934.

Storylines

Where to begin? To say this was a season of change would be an understatement. The Beauts began the year with only three players who were tenured more than two years with the team, and ended with only two. The summer’s signings were amazing, but also signified another serious roster turnover. Coaches Ric Seiling and Craig Muni, who had led the team to three consecutive championship games, were terminated in November. Interim coach Cody McCormick became the GM (and assumed full-time coach) when general manager Nik Fattey left the team in December.

Regardless, it was an incredible season for the Beauts; both as a team and as individuals. Hayley Scamurra and rookie Savannah Harmon earned time with the US National Team, and Scamurra was named to the IIHF World Championship roster. Scamurra also garnered the Player of the Year award, presented by the NWHLPA. Her linemate, center Elia, was named league MVP. The controversial forward was second in the league in faceoffs and was the season’s scoring champion.

At the other end of the ice, goaltenders Szabados and Hensley were nearly unbeatable. With save percentages eclipsing 93, and goals against averages well below two, there were times that it seemed impossible for opponents to score.

The team saw eight players head to Nashville as All-Stars, and played a very good, very close game at the KeyBank Center. This season literally had everything.

Report Card

Offense: A

The Beauts ended the year second in goals scored with 57 — an improvement of six goals from last season. Again, Elia led in goals, and Scamurra in points. Those two players scored as many goals as the entire Connecticut Whale team.

For the first eight games, the Scamurra-Elia-Cameranesi line carried a heavy load, but in the end, depth scoring picked up and the Beauts reaped the rewards, tearing through the standings.

In four of the team’s five losses (four regular season and the Isobel Cup loss,) the Beauts managed two goals or fewer. While the forwards were dominant in many of Buffalo’s wins, their periodic stagnancy resulted in a second place finish and yet another Isobel Cup loss.

Defense: A

It’s easy to credit goalies Szabados and Hensley for Buffalo’s low goal allowances, but the defense deserves more than a tip of the cap. The team lost a full starting pair in January, when Sarah Edney and Sarah Casorso retired. The Beauts carried six defenders from that point forward. Bolden and Emily Pfalzer double shifted for the remainder of their season, playing their first pair minutes, and splitting time with Jordyn Burns and Jacquie Greco, respectively.

The blueliners added 32 assists to Buffalo’s juggernaut of an offense. The bulk of those came off of Bolden’s stick, but seven of the eight defenders to lace the skates for Buffalo tallied a point at some point in the season.

The Beauts did not lose a single game in regulation in 2019. Aside from a shootout loss to end the season, the team did not lose at all after December 29. The team’s defense played a huge role in that.

Goaltending: A++...+

The 2014 Olympic gold medalist and the 2018 Olympic gold medalist got together and did what one might expect two generational goaltenders would do.

Overall: A

The 2018-19 Beauts overcame a mountain of adversity to be the only club in North American women’s professional hockey to play in a fourth consecutive championship game.

Which they lost. Again. If there is one thing that Buffalo fans as a whole are tired of, it is moral victories. Still, Beauts took home Goaltender of the Year, Defender of the Year, League MVP, and NWHLPA Player of the Year. The only thing missing was Isobel, which makes the team’s fourth season just slightly more bitter than sweet.