Léa-Kristine Demers’ NWHL debut a wild, whirlwind weekend
After a solid career at Merrimack College that ended on Feb. 22, goaltender Léa-Kristine Demers earned a shot in the NWHL, signing a contract with the Buffalo Beauts a week later. It was a bit of a surprising move, as the Beauts already had three goaltenders on their roster. But it’s also a bold move because if Demers plays well enough Buffalo could wreak some havoc in the Isobel Cup playoffs.
Days after signing her contract with the Beauts, and only one practice with the team, Demers started back-to-back road games against the Metropolitan Riveters this past weekend. With her stellar play she just may have earned herself a start in Buffalo’s first playoff game against the Connecticut Whale on March 6. She turned aside 72 of the 77 shots fired at her by the Rivs, and showed resiliency in bouncing back from a 5-2 loss to record a 3-1 win less than 24 hours later.
We spoke with the 22-year-old Quebec-native following her first professional to get a glimpse into her wild, whirlwind weekend before she headed back to Massachusetts to get back to school - just because her collegiate career on the ice ended it doesn’t mean that classes are over as well!
The Ice Garden: Now that it’s over, what are your impressions of your first weekend as a pro?
Léa-Kristine Demers: I felt great. I was really excited to get the call (from GM Mandy Cronin) to come play here. It is such a great opportunity and I am really glad to be here, this was awesome. I (definitely) had a little bit of nerves the first period of the first game, but then right after that I got the hang of the pace; and this team was so welcoming. That was really nice.
TIG: In your win today the penalty killers, including yourself, were phenomenal going 4-for-4. How much did their play in front of you help out as a new player on the team?
LKD: It really helped me out. I’m not used to having such a great penalty kill in front of me, and not that it was bad back in college - they are pretty good - but this was on a whole different level. I was able to come out of the crease a little further [to cut down shooter’s angles] because I knew they were getting to rebounds and clearing them. That really helped me feel more confident during the PKs.
TIG: Obviously your happy about the win because you keep smiling but does it sting a little bit to lose your shutout bid with 7:25 left in the third period?
LKD: A little bit to be honest! I was kind of hoping I was going to get it, but I’m just happy that we won. That’s all I really wanted.
All hats off to @leademers_ who earned the first @NWHL victory of her career. Super strong in net for both games this weekend against the @Riveters! Lea made 72 saves between the two games. #NWHL #Beauts #FortBeaut— Buffalo Beauts (@BuffaloBeauts) March 2, 2020
🖼: @BuffaWallpapers pic.twitter.com/ftlFwevq1y
TIG: At what point during the game today did you start thinking, ‘Hey I might get a shutout here in just my second NWHL game?
LKD: When I stepped on the ice to start the third period, that was probably the first time I thought about it a little. But it was only a 2-0 game so my main focus was still on the win. Even after they scored one on me to make it 2-1, all I thought about was getting that win.
TIG: The win probably makes the bus ride back home a lot more enjoyable too, right?
LKD: I’m sure it will be a huge party on the bus but I will not be on it. I’ll be heading back to Boston with Bucky (Mikyla Grant-Mentis), so we’re heading to a hotel and then flying out at 6 a.m. to go back to school. Then we’ll rejoin the Beauts at the end of the week.