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What If…? NWHL Version, Part 3

What If...Alexa Gruschow’s bananapants shot and subsequent goal were stopped by Amanda Leveille?

Pat McCarthy

Time. Space. Reality. It’s more than a linear path. It’s a prism of endless possibility, where a single choice can branch out into infinite realities, creating alternate worlds from the ones we already know. I am not the Watcher, but I am your guide through these vast new realities.

Follow along and ponder the question... ‘What if?’

March 25, 2018. The Buffalo Beauts and the Metropolitan Riveters meet in Newark, New Jersey for the third Isobel Cup Final and the Beauts are making their third Cup Final appearance in three seasons. The Rivs score the game’s lone goal on only their second shot of the game, a ridiculously well-placed shot by Alexa Gruschow while her body was parallel to the ice.

What If…Amanda Leveille saved that ridiculous shot? How long would the game have gone on? Would they still be playing right now? Both Leveille and Katie Fitzgerald were on their games on that day and Fitzgerald even made a few head saves as the Beauts battled to find an equalizer. They were clearly the two best netminders in the NW at that time, so there is no telling how that game could have played out if Gruschow didn’t somehow sink that shot.

What If…the Beauts were able to tie the game? Not a ridiculous concept as they were the best team in the NWHL that season, and headed into the postseason on a 10-game winning streak. Buffalo had a deep roster in Season 3, with emerging stars like Hayley Scamurra, Maddie Elia, Kristin Lewicki, and Taylor Accursi, plus they had veterans like Corinne Buie, Lisa Chesson, and Kourtney Kunichika.

Ultimately, Fitzgerald would finish with 28 saves and stymied the Beauts from every which way as they tried to score on her. Gruschow’s goal largely developed because of the play of her linemate, Miye D’Oench, who returned to action late in the season after missing half of the Riveters' games with an injury. What If…D’Oench wasn’t there to set up Gruschow’s majestic goal? What If…Fitzgerald let one shot slip through her?

Buffalo once again felt the heartbreak of coming oh so close but falling short of the grand prize for the second time in three seasons. What If…the Beauts had won the Cup in Season 3? How would it have affected their next run to the Cup Final a year later?

The different possibilities are endless.

In Season 4 of the NWHL, a fourth different team was crowned as Isobel Cup champions when the new kids on the block - the Minnesota Whitecaps - dispatched the Beauts 2-1 in overtime, sending Buffalo into the long offseason with yet another heartbreaking loss. In the next edition of What If…? we’ll look at what might have been.