Winter might be dumping all of its might on the Buffalo area currently, but the PHF season is set to heat back up this weekend — sadly, without the Beauts or the Whale, whose games Saturday and Sunday got canceled due to the inclement weather and subsequent travel bans across the 716. I sincerely hope you’re following some of the Beauts on Instagram to see their reactions to the first snow of the year, because they’re pretty amazing.
Still, we have plenty to dish on, so let’s get to it.
- First, if you haven’t caught my feature on Claudia Kepler from earlier this week, it’s up and running now on TIG. There was a lot we chatted about that I couldn’t fit into the piece, and a lot of it had to do with her precious pup, Harrison, who’s been adapting well to his new home (“He thinks he’s the man of the house”). Sadly, we haven’t seen much of him since the start of the season — Kepler says she wants to make sure he has all of his shots and such — but rest assured, there’s plenty of him to be seen on Instagram, and she’s working with the social media team to get more Harrison content on the Beauts accounts soon.
“I love that little guy,” she said. “I’m excited to be able to bring him to the rink more and have more people hanging out with him, he’s already got the best personality ever. To get him, that opened up right before I was gonna leave Wisconsin, so it was perfect timing. I knew I’d always wanted a dog, and being in my late 20s now, I have that stability, so I’m glad it all worked out.
“The hockey season can get long so it’s nice to come home to something that’s different than hockey. I’m the type of person that maybe would think too much about hockey if I had the time, so it’s like puppy therapy.”
- I also got to sit down with practice player and community coordinator Amy Budde for the Founding 4 Podcast, which was a blast. Budde talked about her new role and improved mindset heading into her second year with the team, which lent a lot of insight as to how she was able to deal with some of the frustrations of being the odd one out last year. With a clearer expectations comes a clearer perspective, and now she’s able to relax and have fun with the game. She’s also able to do more with the Buffalo community, something she’s always loved doing since her college days at Lake Forest. You can check out the first part of the interview on Transistor, but some of my favorite insights from her included these quotes:
“People look at different things and see different views of what’s going to make a team successful, and it’s not my job to decide the lineup. It’s not my role to decide if I should play or not. It’s my job to go out and put my best foot forward, and to do everything I can to help the team however that is — and if that means I’m playing 25 minutes, if that means I’m playing zero, then so be it... I can still add value however I can within that organization.”
(On practicing with the Beauts) It’s a great workout, and it’s also just awesome to play against and with players who are phenomenal. Like, you’re going head to head against some of the best hockey players in the league and in the world, even, and I think it’s something that I’m really grateful to do every day, and I’m improving a lot which is awesome.”
“I think one thing you can always do in life is have passion. I think it makes life more exciting and more interesting, and so I just love getting really into things. I just truly have fallen in love with Buffalo and the community and the fans, and however I can help... reach out to people and do whatever I can to make someone’s day.”
- I personally have seen a huge difference in Budde’s approach and her overall play during these last few weeks as the team ramps back up. I think the clear definition of her role on the team has taken a huge weight off her shoulders, and she’s able to just go out and have fun while also showing off some skill on both offense and defense. It’s awesome to see from a player I definitely wanted to see more of last season in Beauts blue.
- Funnily enough, Jess Healey’s name came up in conversation with both Kepler and Budde, and it’s clear she makes a big impact. Kepler, who roomed with Healey during their time together in Sweden, describes her as a “happy soul,” saying, “You can hear her laugh from down the hallway.” Meanwhile, when asked if anyone can match her level of “weird” (her words, not mine), Budde immediately said, “Healey is a weirdo. People don’t think about it, but she is.” Looks like I’ll have to pay some more attention to Healey as the season goes on.
- Speaking of more attention, Allison Attea has definitely been on the radar a lot more in her sophomore season. With a goal during opening weekend and a much more confident air in her play overall, it was awesome to see her get her flowers — but one thing I was confused about was the number of players sharing her accomplishment on social media and calling her “Barbara.” Apparently, the name came from a practice session, as so many things do with this team. Attea said via Instagram, “[Caty] Flagg only really calls me that anymore, but one night I went bar-down on goal and Sammy [Fieseler] yelled ‘bar down Barb!’ and the name stuck.” So, if you follow any players and see that name thrown around in reference to Attea, that’s why.
- Practices in general for the Beauts are always a joy to attend, mainly because you get to see a side of the players that you don’t see a ton of during games. Michaela Boyle is one of those players who can catch you off guard with her humor, and Wednesday night was one of those nights — apparently, the tiny mic question for social media had to do with celeb crushes, and Boyle headed onto the ice announcing, “Guys, I said my celebrity crush was Buckey [Mikyla Grant-Mentis].”
You also get to see the hijinks that all three goalies get up to. One night it’s practicing their secret handshakes; the next, they’re trying to score on each other or attempting to deflect passes into the net. It’s all incredibly entertaining.
What it's like when you find out you have a snow day as an adult ❄️ ️ ️ pic.twitter.com/nsgDsnsDmv— Eric The Non Evil Twin (@Tiedes59) November 17, 2022
All that said, I’m really looking forward to seeing the Beauts back in competitive play come Dec. 10 at Northtown. Granted, that’s still a couple of weeks away, and granted it will be against the current juggernaut that is the Boston Pride and their very, very hot goalie Corinne Schroeder (who is still rocking a shutout streak as of this writing). This gives me really unfortunate vibes hearkening back to this time last year, when the Beauts had a similar issue with their scheduling and couldn’t really get off the ground for the rest of the season. Still, this is a different team with a different sort of focus, so I’m hoping the extra weeks of practice are giving them more time to come together and work on their systems. We shall see.