The first weekend of PHF hockey is over, which leaves us with plenty to discuss and dissect. The Buffalo Beauts dropped their first game of the season to the Toronto Six by a score of 4-3 but we learned a lot about this young Beauts roster and much of it is encouraging.
By the Numbers:
Six Goals: Shiann Darkangelo (PPG), Leah Marino, Lindsay Eastwood, Michaela Cava (PPG)
Beauts Goals: Missy Segall, Autumn Macdougall (SHG), Taylor Accursi
Goalie Stats: Elaine Chuli (TOR) - 17/20, .857 sv%; Carly Jackson (BUF) - 26/30, .867 sv%
Surely, if the Beauts could take the energy and tenacity of the third period of Saturday night’s tilt against the Toronto Six and copy/paste it for the rest of the season, they would. After 40 mainly uninspired minutes of play, they clawed their way up from a 3-1 deficit and were just one minute away from an overtime point when Michaela Cava sealed the deal for the Six. In the end, Toronto prevailed, 4-3, but there was still a lot to take out of the first game of the season in PHF regular-season play.
Up: Spreading the (scoring) wealth
While of course co-captain Taylor Accursi factored into the scoring with the tying goal midway through the third period, it’s clear that the wealth of offense isn’t going to come from her alone. Missy Segall and Autumn MacDougall also got on the board, and Cassidy Vinkle factored in with two assists as well. Amy Budde and Cassidy MacPherson also made incredible plays that led to the Beauts coming back. Head coach Rhea Coad pointed out the fact that all three Buffalo goals came from three different lines and spoke to the fact that that hasn’t always been the case:
“I think we’re extremely deep this year... it’s nice not to rely on the same players all the time. This is a fast game, and so being able to roll all the lines is huge — we haven’t had that luxury in the past, and so that’s going to be huge for us.”
Down: Slow starts
It certainly wasn’t expected — the Beauts, far from getting to the Six early, struggled to exit the zone and were hounded by the aggressive Toronto fore- and backchecking. In the first period in particular, while they left it tied at 1, they were outshot 14-3 and had to rely on some terrific goaltending from Carly Jackson to keep it close. That’s not something they can do even with three strong netminders in their ranks — they’re going to have to figure out a way to get it together quickly and get their speed going. Of course, it’s only Game One, and they have two weeks to go before they face off again, so there’s time to get it right.
Up: Rookie mistakes? Not so much
Segall with a goal, Vinkle with two points, Amy Budde with her first NHL point (an assist on Segall’s goal), and Emilie Harley and Anjelica Diffendal each with standout performances in their own right? Yes, please.
Down: Penalty parade
In addition to the playmaking, Vinkle in particular showed a great affinity for physical play, much of which ended up landing her in the penalty box. While we can argue about the consistency of the officiating another time, the fact remains that not only the volume but the efficiency of the penalty kill need to be fixed. They went 4-for-6 on the kill, something Coad is looking to put to rights by the time they face off against the Riveters on Nov. 20.
“I think it’s just another situation where they’re just thinking too much,” she said of the result. “So we gotta try to get it more [executing like we do in practice].”
Down: Long layoff, longer road stretch
From here, the Beauts have a week off before an entire month of away games against Metro and Minnesota. With their next home game not until Dec. 18, it’ll be a long road (no pun intended) before they get back in front of their home crowd. Players and coaching staff alike spoke highly of the opening night’s attendance and energy, something they’ve missed for the past year and a half.
“I think I’m biased when I say this, but in Buffalo, we have the best fans — and especially even after, you know, somebody gets their first goal in their first game and they celly hard, the fans go wild,” Accursi said. “It’s a great feeling, and [the fans] missed it too.”
Still, four games is four games, and they’ll have to strike hard and quick against the Rivs and Whitecaps respectively if they want to bounce back and get in good position prior to the New Year.
“I think it becomes difficult... but we like to be on the road and go into other people’s houses and mess things up,” Coad joked. “So we honestly take advantage of the road warrior piece to it.”
Up: Game One of 20
It’s a long, long road to Izzy, and if there’s one thing we’ve realized, it’s that the Beauts are incredibly resilient even early on. One of general manager Nate Oliver’s praises for his group is that the players “are willing to work for each other,” meaning the chemistry is already there and strong amongst the 20-odd players on this roster. With a long road trip ahead comes more opportunities for the team to jell and connect, and any kinks still in the system will no doubt be worked out by Coad’s structured, no-nonsense approach.
Miss this game? Check it out on ESPN+, the exclusive domestic streaming service for PHF games. Canadian viewers can check out streaming online with TSN and TSN Direct.