Whitney Dove of the Beauts deserves your attention

Dove brings a unique set of skills to Buffalo’s defense

The Buffalo Beauts we saw in Lake Placid for the 2021 NWHL season were a team defined by their potential. The headline story of the 2021 Beauts was rookie goaltender Carly Jackson, who quickly captured the attention of fans and the media with her exceptional play in the goal crease. But Jackson wasn’t the only Buffalo rookie who stood out in Lake Placid.

Big things were expected of Whitney Dove after the career she had at Providence College. In her first year at Providence in 2016–17, she became the first defender in Hockey East to be named the conference’s Rookie of the Year. The native of British Columbia stood out on both ends of the ice for the Friars. She scored at least five goals and blocked at least 38 shots in all four seasons at Providence, finishing her career with 26 goals and 53 assists — 32 of which were primary — in 145 games.

“The first thing I noticed about Whit from seeing what she did at Providence was that her shot is very deceptive from the point or from within the face-off circle,” Beauts general manager Nate Oliver told The Ice Garden. “She’s like a really good pitcher in baseball in that way. She hides the puck until the last minute so that you don’t see it coming. That was the first thing I noticed.

“We talked a lot on the phone over the summer and through email, and I signed her fairly early on,” Oliver continued. “Then you get her here to Buffalo and you see how hard Whit works day in and day out. She really thinks the game, and you can tell that she’s always analyzing. It’s fun to watch her in that regard at practice because she’s always trying to better herself. On the ice, she’s just a workhorse. I mean, look at what she did in Lake Placid — never stopped hustling one bit and just battled and battled like there was no tomorrow. But that’s just Whit — a consummate professional who takes her craft very seriously.”

On a Buffalo blue line led by All-Star Marie-Jo Pelletier, it was Dove who ate up the most minutes for the Beauts. The product of Providence college averaged 22:52 TOI/GP in six games of hockey. Dove had one assist and an eyebrow-raising 21 penalty minutes, but there is a lot more to her than those two numbers.

Dove Can Fly

Even at the pro level, Dove stands out because of her skating ability and her puck skills. She’s a powerful skater with sharp instincts — great traits to have for any hockey player. Dove’s ability to quickly change gears makes her not only entertaining to watch but also an impactful player in all three zones. She jumped in on Buffalo’s attack a few times during the tournament, which is one of the reasons why the Beauts had an impressive looking counterattack in the first few games.

Watch how quickly she closes in on Carlee Turner of the Pride on what could have been a two-on-one for Boston. Dove’s speed puts her in a position to make a play on the puck carrier, and her stickwork takes care of the rest.

Remember the 21 penalty minutes that Dove racked up in Lake Placid?

Well, let’s be clear, there is absolutely an edge to her game. The Canadian blue liner plays a lot bigger than her 5-foot-5 frame and is unafraid to challenge forwards who spend too much time in her goalie’s crease.

Dove earned 15 of those penalty minutes — a 5-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct — for a check to the head in the final minute against the Boston Pride on Jan. 24. But she also led the Beauts in penalties drawn (4) in Lake Placid, which is noteworthy because it demonstrates how often she carried the puck. It also means she drew as many penalties as she took if we overlook the misconduct. (That might be the first time that sentence has ever been written. Just go with it.)

On the Puck

Let’s look at an example of how Dove’s skating and instincts put the Beauts on a power play in Lake Placid. During some rare four-on-four hockey against the Toronto Six, Dove recognized an opportunity to take the puck through the neutral zone herself. She pushed the puck ahead of her and lowered her head to get into gear to get past Taylor Woods, who took a penalty trying to interfere with her.

These are the kinds of plays you love to see from a defender with puck skills. She recognizes the open ice and attacks it. Last season, the only Beauts blue liner who regularly made plays like this was Pelletier, but she made most of her offensive impact on the power play. Having a defender who can get in on the rush like this at even strength is a huge asset and something the Beauts have been missing.

Per InStat, the Beauts controlled play the most with the Dove–Dominique Kremer pair deployed with 40.37 percent of the shot share. That may be underwhelming at first glance, but keep in mind that Buffalo, on average, had a –23.2 Corsi Differential at evens. Dove’s 43.0 iCF% (individual Corsi For percentage) led all Beauts blue liners. Buffalo spent a ton of time in their own zone in Lake Placid — just ask Carly Jackson — and Dove was one of the players frequently working to bail them out.

Off the Puck

It’s easy to look at rookie Alyson Matteau’s league-leading 23 blocked shots and identify her as a defensive defender, but Dove’s contributions in her own zone shouldn’t be overlooked. She led the team in takeaways (45) in the defensive zone and puck battles (61) in the d-zone.

At first glance, her +1 plus/minus stands out on a team that finished Lake Placid with a -12 even-strength goal differential. A deeper look into the box scores reveals that she was on the ice for three of Buffalo’s goals at 5-on-5 and on the ice for just two 5-on-5 goals against. For someone averaging over 22 minutes of ice time on a team that allowed 2.67 EV GA/GP that is simply remarkable.

That speaks to the efficacy of Dove and Kremer as a pairing. It also says something about how much was asked of the top pair of Pelletier and Matteau, which was also a bright spot for Buffalo in Lake Placid. If general manager Nate Oliver can keep this young blue line and rising star Carly Jackson together, the future will look very bright in Buffalo.

Dove’s underlying numbers paint the picture of a player who did a lot of things right but saw little reward for it in the box score. Big picture, she was one of the most talented and exciting rookies we saw on the ice in Lake Placid. Her strength, skating, and puck skills make her one of the most dynamic defenders in the league.

Data courtesy of InStat, HockeyEastOnline.com, and HerHockeyCounts.com