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Overlooked performances on the 2021 Buffalo Beauts

Matteau, MacDougall, and MacPherson were all key contributors for the Beauts.

Michelle Jay

It’s time for the final installment of overlooked performances from the 2021 NWHL season. This time around we are turning our attention to the Buffalo Beauts. Back in early February, I wrote about rookie defender Whitney Dove deserving your attention so consider her an honorable mention here. The Beauts may have had the worst winning percentage in Lake Placid but things are far from doom and gloom in Buffalo. This is a team with a young core that is brimming with potential.

Alyson Matteau

Few rookie defenders in the NWHL stepped into a bigger role this year than Matteau. She was an intimidating, effective presence on a pairing with All-Star Marie-Jo Pelletier and clocked a lot of minutes at even strength (15:02 EV TOI/GP) and on the kill (2:38). While it’s true that Matteau (and the rest of Buffalo’s defenders) saw less ice time in the three games that Lisa Chesson played in Lake Placid, the rookie defender definitely made her presence known on Buffalo’s blue line.

Matteau led the Beauts by a wide margin with 23 blocks. Per InStat’s data, she blocked 12 shots per 60 minutes, which demonstrates just how willing she was to put her body on the line to help her team. She was also third on the team with 23 TA60 (takeaways per 60) and was a factor in Buffalo’s transition game. She and MJP were level with 9.0 breakouts via pass per 60 minutes and she led all Beauts’ defenders with 3.9 entries via pass P60.

If we had metrics on strength and balance I wouldn’t be surprised Matteau finished near the top of the list. She has the ability to bully forwards around while also having the discipline to stay out of the box. She finished Lake Placid with a +1 penalty differential, which is pretty exceptional considering how much time she spent in her own zone and how many times she was tangled up in puck battles. Strong and smart.

On the other side of the puck, Matteau had two primary assists for the Beauts — one at evens and one on the power play. She has a hammer from the point and isn’t afraid to use it. It may surprise some to hear that she led Buffalo’s blueliners in shots on goal (9). A quick glance at her production in the NCAA suggests that we’re still scratching the surface of what she can offer in the offensive zone. She’s definitely a player to keep a close eye on in her sophomore season.

There’s very little flair to Matteau’s game with and without the puck. She puts on her hard hat and gets the job done, which made her a great fit for the defense-first, bend but don’t break Beauts this year. Moving forward, we should expect special things if she continues to play with MJP. On paper, they are a really fun pairing that I’d like to see more of.

For the record: MJP is one of the most underrated players in hockey, let alone the NWHL. With that being said, I’ve written (and tweeted) a lot about her and wanted to spread the love to other players who deserve more attention than they get from media and fans.

Autumn MacDougall

Here’s the list of players who scored more even-strength goals in Lake Placid than Autumn MacDougall: Mikyla Grant-Mentis.

That’s it. That’s the list.

The former Alberta Panda made a huge impact on the Beauts in her first taste of pro hockey. MacDougall had three goals at evens for Buffalo in six games. The Beauts, in toto, had five goals at even-strength. Even for a sample of six games, her fingerprints were all over the Beauts’ offense. Unsurprisingly, she was tied for the team lead with 10 shots P60 at 5v5.

MacDougall is a slippery, smart forward who is a lot of fun to watch. In addition to potting some big goals for Buffalo, she showed some skill as a puck-mover in the offensive and neutral zones. She had 4.2 entries via pass per 60 minutes, which was second only to the perpetually underrated Kayla Meneghin (5.8). She had a lot of giveaways in Lake Placid but that isn’t necessarily surprising considering how often she had the puck and the breakdowns Buffalo had in its transition game. Remember, you have to have the puck to give it away.

Overall, Lake Placid was a roaring success for the Beauts’ 3rd round pick (14th overall) from the 2020 Draft. MacDougall lit the lamp and made things happen in the two zones the Beauts were counting on her to make a difference. At the end of the day, you can’t ask for much more than that.

Cassidy MacPherson

Another year, another overlooked performance for the young Beauts’ pivot.

MacPherson failed to register a point in Lake Placid but don’t let that distract you from what she brings to the table. She’s continuing to develop into a really intriguing defensive center with some offensive upside.

The league’s data has Juron leading the Beauts with 18 shots on goal, while InStat’s tracking had her tied for fourth with 11. That’s a pretty big margin to work with and a lot of noise to take into consideration. Still, it suggests that MacPherson was at the very least a little unlucky. MacPherson was very much involved in Buffalo’s offense, particularly at even strength. She had a lot of turnovers but I think that comes hand-in-hand with being asked to make decisions with the puck in the neutral zone on a team that lacked forward depth.

I think something that hurt her production was her limited role on the power play. She was fourth among Beauts’ forwards in average PP ice time per game. Not everyone can be on the top unit, and that top unit only came through with two goals on 20 opportunities.

On a Buffalo team that was buried in the faceoff dot with a winning percentage of 39.63 percent, MacPherson led the way with a 48.86 winning percentage. Is that great? Hardly, but there’s no doubt that she made a difference there and the only Beaut who took more draws in Lake Placid was Jordan Juron. And really, that kind of encapsulates what MacPherson brought to the Beauts. She flew under the radar but, overall, she was a positive presence, particularly off the puck, and contributed in ways that don’t jump off the page in the box score. She’s a quality middle-six center.

Data courtesy of InStat, Their Hockey Counts, and NWHL.zone.