All-Time Starting Lineup: Buffalo Beauts

Who cracks the Beauts’ starting six?

The Buffalo Beauts have one of the most impressive resumés in the NWHL. Since the pandemic cancelled this year’s Isobel Cup Final, that technically means the Beauts have still participated in every Cup Final played despite being eliminated in the play-in round this season.

With a litany of options to choose from, let’s take a look at who makes their all-time starting lineup.

The Starting Six

Center: Meghan Duggan (‘15-’16)

I’ll be honest. This is the decision that I found the toughest when making this lineup. Which is strange, because we are talking about Meghan flippin’ Duggan here. A hockey legend. The captain of Team USA. How is this not a runaway victory?

Duggan had six goals and 10 assists in 13 games with the Beauts, with eight of those 10 helpers being primaries. She had a primary assist in the playoffs, but only played in two of the five Buffalo postseason games because of her coaching job at Clarkson.

The one argument against Duggan is that if this were an actual lineup, there is a certain combination that Buffalo used to employ that they would hypothetically want to keep together. Which we’ll get to in a moment.

Defining moment: Three apples vs NYR (1/31/16). Duggan had three assists for the only time in her NWHL career against the New York Riveters, setting up Kelley Steadman twice on the powerplay and grabbing a secondary on what proved to be the game-winning goal in the third period. It was just the second win of the season for Buffalo in a year in which they narrowly edged the Rivs for third in the standings. If not for wins like this, the Beauts might not have been able to dodge the Pride in round one that season.

Honorable mention: Maddie Elia (‘17-’19). Maddie Elia is underrated. She’s physical, she has terrific vision of the ice, and she deserved the MVP Award she earned from the league in 2018-19. She and her linemates dominated possession, with Elia scoring a league-high 12 goals with seven assists in 16 games. That’s why Duggan isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk. Elia is a fascinating player to watch, and her play is elevated to a whole other level when a certain someone is on her line...

Left Wing: Hayley Scamurra (‘16-’19)

Everything changed for the Buffalo Beauts when Hayley Scamurra came to town. Seriously. Scamurra signed with the Beauts after finishing up her collegiate career on a talented Northeastern University team (complete with the likes of Denisa Krizova and McKenna Brand, among others). She scored a goal in her debut game- the last of the regular season to cinch third place in the standings over Connecticut. From there, she dominated the postseason- a three-point night against Metropolitan and an assist in the Cup Final.

If not for Scamurra’s triumphant arrival, the Beauts don’t win the Cup in 2017. Simple as that. And the only reason she was available is because the first game lined up with her senior year’s spring break at Northeastern. Right place, right time.

Scamurra accumulated 34 points in 30 games in two seasons after her debut. In Elia’s MVP season in 2018-19, Scamurra led the NWHL with 20 points. She has since joined the PWHPA.

Defining moment: A Playoff Introduction (3/17/17). Scamurra’s first playoff game against the second-seeded Riveters was something to behold. She was a marvel on the puck. She was fast, skilled, and seemingly always in the attacking zone. I remember sitting in the stands that evening thinking: where has SHE been? I, like many others watching her for the first time that evening, knew this was a superstar in the making. It wasn’t long before even the US Women’s National Team took notice, inviting Scamurra to the World Championships in 2019. She logged two points in seven games as the US won gold.

Honorable mention: Taylor Accursi (‘17-present). Accursi is a versatile weapon for the Buffalo Beauts, in that she produces in whatever role she’s cast in. She’s been on the third line for a 2018-19 team loaded with weapons. She’s been the top-line sniper netting 16 goals in 24 games. 37 of her 42 points are primaries. As far as pure offensive threats go, Accursi is one of the best in the league.

Right Wing: Kelley Steadman (‘15-’17)

Kelley Steadman went from “practice player” to league star right quick. Steady led the Beauts in scoring her rookie season, tallying 13 goals and seven assists in just 10 games. Her special teams prowess was a marvel, registering five powerplay goals and two shorties. She shot at a remarkable 11% clip, which is made even more impressive when considering she averaged 11.9 shots-on-goal per game. Some have even deemed it the best single season in league history when basing it on game score.

The best single season performances in NWHL history

Steadman played in eight more games in 2016-17, tacking on 10 more career points before calling an end to her NWHL career. She will occasionally joke about a comeback on Twitter, and every time, it sends Beauts fans into a frenzy. There’s a reason she’s so missed.

Defining moment: #DoTheSteady. Steadman gave the league its first iconic image with her now famous fired-up celly from the Isobel Cup Final.

The image became a social media campaign with fans imitating her pose, and #DoTheSteady still is used in the NWHL Twittersphere. Sometimes a picture says more than words ever could.

Honorable mention: Dani Cameranesi (‘18-’19). DaniCam only spent one season in Buffalo, but it was a good one. She skated on the top line with Scamurra and Elia, forming one of the most dominant trios in the NWHL. With all three forwards posing a threat, it’s no surprise that Cameranesi finished as a point-per-game player, registering four goals and 11 assists in 14 games.

Defense: Megan Bozek (‘15-’17)

The Bozek Blast is a part of Beauts lore. Her blistering 88-mph slapper at the NWHL’s first Hardest Shot competition during All-Star weekend put the league on notice- Buffalo’s blueline can drop the hammer.

Bozek contributed plenty offensively in her time with the Beauts, potting eight goals and 15 assists in 32 games on defense. She’s not just a big shot, though. Bozek played against the league’s top lines, not to mention some of the stiffest competition in the world at the Olympic and IIHF level. She’s a big time performer, as evidenced by her postseason numbers: five goals, 10 points in seven games.

Defining moment: The Hail Mary Pass (3/19/17). Bozek notched the primary helper on the most important goal in franchise history: Corinne Buie’s game-winning goal against Boston in the Isobel Cup Final. With the Pride’s big guns in the offensive zone threatening, Bozek pounced on a puck that hopped over Brianna Decker’s stick and skied the puck into the neutral zone. The clearing attempt turned into a beautiful home run pass to a streaking Buie, who powered through the Boston defense to bury a backhander. Buffalo would hang on for a 3-2 Cup-winning victory.

Honorable mention: Emily Pfalzer Matheson (‘15-’17, ‘18-’19). Pfalzer is another Team USA player who has thrived at every level. Often paired with either Bozek or Kelly McDonald, Pfalzer was also a crucial part of that 2017 Isobel Cup squad.

Defense: Blake Bolden (‘18-’19)

Blake Bolden gets the nod over Emily Pfalzer Matheson really for only one reason: Bolden outperformed Pfalzer Matheson when the two were on the same team. In fact, Bolden outperformed everyone in the league, winning Defender of the Year honors in 2018-19.

Bolden had been a solid contributor for the Boston Pride in the league’s first two seasons. After spending a year in Switzerland, she returned with the Beauts to put up one of the strongest defensive seasons in league history: 13 points in 16 games (tied for the most of any defender that season) including 12 assists (second amongst all players).

Bolden now works as a scout for the Los Angeles Kings- the first Black woman to scout for an NHL team.

Defining moment: KeyBank Center shortie (12/29/18). The Buffalo Beauts took on the Minnesota Whitecaps in the KeyBank Center, home of the Sabres. With the Beauts shorthanded, Bolden rifled home a shorthanded beauty for her lone tally of the season. For a defender’s only goal to come shorthanded is such a freak occurrence, it’s hard not to marvel at it.

Honorable mention: Marie-Jo Pelletier (‘19-present). Pelletier is a fun player to watch. She dispels a lot of hockey myths about size getting the job done at the blueline, as she flourished last season on a Beauts team that needed all the help they could get defensively. She logged 21 points in 24 games in her rookie season, finishing second on the team in points behind only Accursi.

Goaltender: Amanda Leveille (‘16-18)

Amanda Leveille has been- and continues to be- a dominant force between the pipes in the NWHL. She spent two memorable years in Buffalo, backstopping the team to their third consecutive Isobel Cup Final in 2017-18 and winning Goaltender of the Year along the way. Her award-winning campaign featured an 11-3-2 record with a .918 save percentage and 2.53 goals-against average.

She saw an opportunity to return to her college homeland when the Minnesota Whitecaps joined the league, and has racked up 27 more career wins since leaving.

Defining moment: Shootout shutout (1/27/18). Mandy’s 2017-18 campaign was a season-long coming out party for the league’s newest star. The shiniest of her shining moments came on Jan. 27, 2018, in a goaltending duel with Brittany Ott and the Boston Pride. Leveille stopped 25 shots through 65 minutes of play, sending the game into a shootout at 0-0. She outlasted Ott in a 10-round thriller and the Beauts hung on for a key second point.

Honorable mention: Brianne McLaughlin (‘15-’17). Part two of Buffalo’s adored #McLevMan trio with Leveille and Kelsey Neumann. McLaughlin’s regular season stats don’t necessarily leap off the page- a career 5-14-3 record, .901 save percentage and 3.40 goals-against average. But her legendary Isobel Cup-winning performance alone earns her at least an honorable mention. She stopped the Boston Pride juggernaut 58 times in the Final, clinching Buffalo’s only pro hockey championship in city history. Simply put, she was a beast.