The Beauts are quickly becoming the comeback kids of the PHF. With three games under their belt, they’ve shown much more promise than their 1-2-0 record would suggest, and a hell of a lot more evenly matched play.
Let’s take a look at the good, the not-so-good, and the downright aggravating parts of their first road weekend against the Riveters, where they split two games with an overtime win and a regulation loss.
By the Numbers:
Saturday, Nov. 20: Beauts 4, Riveters 3 (OT)
Beauts Goals: Anjelica Diffendal (2G), Dominique Kremer, Cassidy Vinkle
Carly Jackson: 31/34, .919 sv%
Rivs Goals: Kendall Cornine, Nora Maclaine, Rebecca Russo
Sonjia Shelly: 40/44, .909 sv%
Sunday, Nov. 21: Riveters 5, Beauts 3
Beauts Goals: Dominique Kremer, Emilie Harley (2G)
Carly Jackson: 35/39, .897 sv%
Rivs Goals: Madison Packer (2G), Rebecca Russo (2G), Theresa Knutson
Brooke Wolejko: 29/32, .906 sv%
Up: Beauts never say die
It’s three games now that Buffalo has either threatened a comeback or completed one, with Saturday’s game being the upset they were hoping for. Cassidy Vinkle threw what initially looked like a harmless shot Sonjia Shelly’s way, but the floater managed to sneak through the five-hole and across the goal line for the two-point victory. That marked Vinkle’s first goal as a PHFer and the first win for Rhea Coad in the role of head coach for the Beauts.
The Beauts then very nearly did the same exact thing Sunday, as Coad pulled Carly Jackson for an extra skater with a whole five minutes to go in regulation. Buffalo was down 4-2 at that point, and the risky move had a semi-payoff — Emilie Harley scored her second goal of the game with less than three minutes to go and pulled her team within one. That would, unfortunately, be it, as Rebecca Russo tallied an empty-netter with 13 seconds to go that crushed any hope of lightning striking twice.
Still, it shows a tremendous amount of trust in her team on Coad’s part to get the job done. It also shows more of that resilience I talked about from the last game; the mental strength it takes to have the rash of bad luck and bad play in the second that led to the 3-0 lead by Metro, regroup, and get it back is not something all teams have. It’s indicative of a young team headed in the right direction.
Down: Beauts... need to start sharp
That being said, there’s only so long a team can go before the multi-goal deficits and constant fighting to pull even take their toll. The Beauts have yet to lead in a game, and with the firepower and speed they have up front, it’s hard to say why — maybe it’s the idea that they’re still feeling out other teams and systems as well as their own, or maybe it’s just their youth and relative inexperience talking.
Now, this is definitely something they can overcome, but they’ll need to take hold of the reins and not let other teams set the tempo for them. The Rivs certainly did way too much of that this weekend, and no doubt upcoming opponents Minnesota and Connecticut will try their hand at the same, so the next couple of weeks should definitely be spent figuring out that aspect of the game.
Up: Rookies make no mistakes
It seems as though every newcomer has made an impact on this team, but two of them tower over the rest in more ways than one. Emilie Harley and Anjelica Diffendal each broke through with two goals apiece over the weekend, a great sign from the Beauts’ two top draft picks. In fact, all of the first-year players seem to fit right in with the veterans on the team, which bodes well for the rest of the season.
Harley with a great shot to keep Buffalo in this one! pic.twitter.com/ubue3IO228— PHF (@PHF) November 21, 2021
Down: High shots against
Carly Jackson has been playing a lot better than her overall numbers — 3.71 GAA, .896 save percentage — suggest, and her workload has been fairly hefty. So far, she’s facing an average of about 35 shots a game, second only to Minnesota’s Amanda Leveille.
While you can argue more reps is a good thing, at the same time that isn’t great when the Beauts are also putting a heavier workload on her with multiple penalties a night. (Not that all of them are quite their fault, and more on that in a moment.) That, coupled with the Beauts’ relative inability to get out of their own zone (seriously, just watch Sunday’s game back — they were completely hemmed in for a good chunk of that empty-net sequence), doesn’t bode for a sustainable season for Jackson or her counterparts.
Down: Dear God, refs, please
I’m not one to complain about officiating often — at least, I don’t think I am. But the calls throughout the league so far have been inconsistent enough that Madison Packer felt compelled to comment on it post-game Saturday, indicating that there needs to be more uniformity when it comes to penalties vs. non-penalties. When you go from a penalty-box parade one period to “see no evil, hear no evil” the next, there’s a problem — and it’s not necessarily the players on the ice.
Also, I’d like to point out the sheer ridiculousness of the 10-minute misconduct handed down to Cassidy MacPherson late Saturday for “use of profane or abusive language”... just because. Why? Unless it was directed AT a ref or linesman (and I really don’t think Cass is that kind of player), it makes zero sense to not at least warn the player first before lowering the boom. But hey. I just write about the game.
Up: Cassidy MacPherson, the quiet hero
Misguided misconduct aside, the veteran forward has been quietly doing some great work for Buffalo. I first noticed it during practices, and it’s showing on the scoresheet as she’s scored four points (all assists) in three games. Being on the top line with Accursi and Diffendal has definitely sparked something in her game, something I’m excited to see more of throughout the season.
The Beauts now have two whole weeks off to rest and regroup, and it can really go either way — either they’ll be rejuvenated and ready to go against Minnesota, or the rust will show. The Whitecaps have two games in hand, but they’ve also had a slower start than anticipated, plus one of the hardest-working goalies in the league (aside from CJ, of course, as we’ve established). Stay tuned for some more spotlights and analysis as Buffalo gears up for another roadie.