NWHL Stock Report: Buffal-oh no
Boston makes history, Beauts slump worsens
The Metropolitan Riveters have leapfrogged the Beauts into third place by splitting their weekend set with the Minnesota Whitecaps, while the Boston Pride continue to run roughshod over the league, setting the record for most wins in a season.
With all five teams in action this weekend, let’s take a look at who’s hot, who’s not and who to keep an eye on.
Trending up: Tori Sullivan, BOS | 3 goals, 3 assists in two games vs BUF
In the Boston Pride’s quest for the first perfect season in NWHL history, there have been many contributors. They have nine players averaging a point-per-game or better, while there are only 11 others in the entire rest of the league. Six Boston players have 20 points or more. That’s twice as many as the rest of the NWHL.
And on a team littered with offensive talent, Tori Sullivan still manages to separate herself from the pack.
Sullivan contributed three goals and three assists to a typically explosive weekend for Boston, in which the team totaled 12 goals against Buffalo. She’s got 12 points in her last seven games, helping lead the Pride to the longest regular-season winning streak in NWHL history (17).
It’s at the point where she doesn’t even bat an eye at scoring anymore. The Pride have become such a monstrous collection of superstars that their own success bores them. They spotted the Beauts a two-goal lead on Sunday and proceeded to rattle off seven unanswered goals on 52 shots. They are ruthlessly dominating the league like no other NWHL team has done before.
This team is simply absurd. And it’s positively awesome.
Trending down: Mariah Fujimagari, BUF | 2 losses vs BOS
The Buffalo Beauts are sliding down a six-game losing streak, and have looked especially porous in the process. Their defense has had a devil of a time clearing the front of the net, and their penalty kill has been especially atrocious lately.
That being said, the execution has not been there from netminder Mariah Fujimagari. Despite her ability to make big saves, she simply has not been good enough at keeping the puck out of the net. She’s allowed four or more goals in eight of her 11 appearances this season, including five of her last six outings.
Fujimagari was lit up for 11 goals in five periods against the Pride, finally being yanked for the third period of Sunday’s 7-2 drubbing.
With a 3-7-0 record, a paltry .872 save percentage and 4.87 goals-against average, it is puzzling how she has not been fully replaced by Kelsey Nuemann as the Beauts’ number one option in net. Neumann, for reference, is 3-1-1 with a .907 save percentage and 3.33 goals-against average.
With all due respect, the time has come to give Neumy the reins. Something needs to change to snap this skid.
Trending up: Amanda Leveille, MIN | Shutout, 68 saves in two games vs MET
On the opposite end of the goalie spectrum is Amanda Leveille, who has quietly returned to her former Goaltender of the Year ways. Leveille has two shutout wins in her last four games and has not allowed more than two goals in a game in six appearances. That dates back to before Thanksgiving.
She ranks second in the league among starters in goals-against average (2.27) and save percentage (.926) behind only Boston’s undefeated Lovisa Selander. Sam Walther is the only goalie to have stopped more shots than Lev.
Riveters’ play-by-play broadcaster Matt Falkenbury hits the nail on the head here: Amanda Leveille makes it look easy. She’s a consummate professional, and the backbone of this Whitecaps team.
Leveille and the Caps will host the Buffalo Beauts this weekend.
Trending down: Buffalo’s penalty kill | 5 PPGs allowed vs BOS
Part of the Beauts’ undoing these last few games has been their penalty kill, which was exposed and left for dead against the Pride this weekend. Boston netted five goals on the advantage between their two games, which continues an ugly trend for Buffalo.
The Beauts have allowed 10 powerplay goals in their last four games.
It’s been frustrating to watch this Buffalo defensive core on a number of levels. Their penalty kill is rapidly sinking towards the bottom of the league, operating at just 79.3% efficiency. With the recent successes of Connecticut’s kill unit, it’s only a matter of time before Buffalo hits rock bottom.
As their kill percentage falls, so too do the Beauts, tumbling to fourth place in the standings. They now will have to focus on the top powerplay unit in the league, the Minnesota Whitecaps.
Trending up: Meaghan Pezon, MIN | Goal vs MET
Meaghan Pezon has started to find her way onto the scoresheet lately. After a three-assist weekend against the Connecticut Whale to close out 2019, Pezon finally potted her first goal of the season Saturday by pouncing on a rebound in front of Sam Walther.
The goal would prove to be the game-winner, as Leveille and the Whitecaps pitched a shutout. Pezon was a role player on last year’s Isobel Cup winning squad, contributing just two points in nine games to the Whitecaps. This season, she has stepped into a bigger role and is starting to flourish, boasting six points in 14 contests.
She has also started to pull the trigger a bit more often, managing 14 shots on goal in her last five games. Pezon’s awareness of scoring areas is a valuable asset. A grizzled veteran who once was a talented scorer from St. Cloud State’s class of 2010, Pezon is a key contributor as the Whitecaps try to keep a leg up on the resurgent Riveters in the standings.