Yesterday, the Buffalo Beauts announced both Ric Seiling and Craig Muni were relieved of their duties. The co-head coaches led the Beauts to two-consecutive Isobel Cup Finals and the 2017 NWHL Championship title.
Skills coach and former NHL Cody McCormick was named interim head coach and general manager Nik Fattey will serve as assistant coach. The Ice Garden spoke with Fattey Saturday afternoon ahead of the Beauts home game against the Connecticut Whale.
The decision to release Seiling and Muni was based on the team underperforming in respect to expectations, “If you were to say we were 3-3 team at the start of the year I would have been a bit shocked,” Fattey said in a phone conversation earlier today.
In the offseason, the Beauts bolstered their roster with two Olympic goalies in Nicole Hensey and Shannon Szabados. The team also returned their original captain and 2018 Olympic gold medalist Emily Pfalzer, who helped the team win the Isobel Cup against the Boston Pride in 2017. Free agents Dani Cameranesi and Blake Bolden both noted the return of Pfalzer as one of the contributing factors that led to them signing with the Beauts this season.
According to Fattey, exit interviews with players and check-in throughout the season help the club keep their finger on the pulse of what is going on with the club. Using this information, as well as looking at the road ahead, management felt the time to make a change was now.
In a story published by The Buffalo News, Seiling told local media the news came as a surprise, “I was kind of surprised that we only have had six games of the season to get noticed ... Go back and check our records. Our record in the first three years at this point in the season was probably worse. We got better until the end of the year. We always had the philosophy to improve.”
The Beauts under Seiling were always a second half team, one that never quite found its stride until just before the playoffs. Again, the Beauts are the only team to play in every single Isobel Cup Final, with a 1-2 record in the championship game. However, that is no longer good enough, especially for a team stacked with Olympians and elite NWHL talent.
“I can’t speak for Rick. I mean I don’t know. I don’t think anybody in the organization’s happy we’re 3-3,” shared Fattey when asked about Seiling’s comments. “We all know that it wasn’t good enough so we are addressed [it]. We’re trying our best [Connecticut] is coming off a hot streak and we need to be prepared. Not only that, we have a series against Minnesota in two weeks. Last week, Boston winning opened doors for the entire league to make a run at the top spot. In this league, the first place spot is huge.”
The Beauts suffered a 1-0 loss to the Riveters in the 2018 Isobel Cup Final, a game the New Jersey-based team hosted. Although the Beauts have played in every Isobel Cup Final in the history of the NWHL, they have yet to host the last game of the season. Fattey and the club look to buck that trend this season.
To that end, Cody McCormick has been named interim head coach. He is a skills coach with the Academy of Hockey program at HarborCenter and has held sessions for the Beauts in the past. His familiarity with the team satisfied the needs of a good interim coach, alongside Fattey, until the team can focus on a more comprehensive search.
“There will be a process we will go through in the future, we haven’t set specific dates but we are going to do our best to do this [for] real, to take it serious and make sure we explore all avenues and everything.”
When asked what he hopes he and McCormick can accomplish given the swift change, Fattey simply stated, “We’re here to win!”
“A win is important and we respect Connecticut. We know they’re coming in hot. At the same time, I think they respect what we’re capable of. If we get the effort that I think we can put forth, we can win a hockey game.”
Fattey will speak to local media at 4:45 pm ahead of tonight’s game against the Whale at HarborCenter.