By David F. Pendrys
STAMFORD, CT – The Buffalo Beauts and Connecticut Whale may have seen a lot of changes in their lineups over the off season, but the two franchises played yet another of their wild wide open games Saturday afternoon at Terry Conners rink. The result was a 3-2 victory for the Beauts, but the Whale had a lot of good momentum to draw from especially after staging a late comeback.
The two netminders, Amanda Leveille of the Beauts, and Sydney Rossman of the Whale, each were stellar as both faced numerous serious challenges throughout the day. Leveille made 20 saves on the Whale’s 22 shots and Rossman made 34 on Buffalo’s 37 shots. The goals allowed were generally defensive issues rather than either goaltender’s fault.
“We count on Syd…she performed well, all we ask from our goalies is to keep us in the game, and she did that,” Whale Head Coach Ryan Equale said.
The first period was a largely back and forth frame. Both the Whale and Beauts had their chances as their speed was put to use. The Beauts managed to put 10 shots on net, and the Whale only five, though generally Connecticut dealt with the danger posed by Buffalo’s offense. Late in the period though, the Beauts were on one of many power plays, as the Whale were sent to the box often. A shot flew at Rossman from one side, and the rebound came to Taylor Accursi on the other side of the net, allowing her to put it into the open gap. Assists were awarded to Sarah Casorso and Maddie Elia.
The second period was a little more even on paper as the Beauts put up 13 shots to the Whale’s 9, but the Beauts also found the back of the net as Sarah Shureb scored after Buffalo had a breakaway with multiple players moving in on the Whale net. Rossman attempted to anticipate their attack but was outnumbered. Kaylyn Schroka and Sarah Casorso had assists on the tally. The Whale did kill off two full penalties, and also portions of two more (while Buffalo had a penalty in between.).
In the third early Buffalo had the advantage, spending a long time in the Whale zone on the attack. Eventually this paid off as Maddie Elia came in on net and shot it, the rebound bounced around and ended off the stick of Accursi and then Hayley Scamurra who was awarded the goal.
“I think they just came out really physical and I don’t know if we weren’t expecting that or what it was, but they just came out more physical, and I think we were just taken back from that, so we weren’t really focusing on our game, we were moreso focused on how they were playing and how aggressive they were,” Grace Klienbach said.
Down 3-0, the Whale didn’t go away and they did change how the momentum was swinging. Midway through the period, Klienbach rotated into a position at the top of the Beauts zone and the puck came right to her, allowing her to smack it under Leveille. Assists went to Kelly Babstock and Emily Fluke. This stood out to Coach Equale as he explained post game that impressed him
“Not only because she got a goal, but because she was in the right position to get her goal,” Equale explained. “One of the things we do on our forecheck is a rotational system. It takes a lot of discipline from our forwards. Grace rotated at the right time and ended up in the right place, and she got the reward with a goal. That really stood out to me as validation that we’re doing some things right out there.”
Ten seconds later, Sam Faber led a charge in on net and in the scrum, she got the puck past the keeper to cut the lead to one. Assists were awarded to Jamie Goldsmith and Shannon Doyle.
“Jamie did a nice job coming around the net, Doyle got the puck to her and she threw it in front and I was kinda wide open,” Faber outlined though she was especially complimentary of Klienbach’s goal for changing momentum. “We’re happy for her, it’s her first pro goal. It was a great goal.”
The Whale would have to deal with one last penalty late in the game which cut into their time to equalize the score. In the waning moments, Rossman was kept in net as the Beauts swarmed the zone. When she was finally pulled, the Beauts got the puck and tried to get it into the empty net, but the Connecticut defense prevented it. Still the Beauts kept the Whale from even deploying a six on five attack in their end and held on for the victory.
The Whale took the loss but rebounded from a 3-0 deficit well.
“I just love seeing what I saw,” Coach Equale said speaking of the last part of the game. “In practice it’s really hard to get a true understanding of what you have as a team. X’s and O’s I can always work on and help improve or adjust, but character and heart, they either have or they don’t, and I love the fact that we showed that in the last eight minutes of the game. I don’t like the outcome, but I love everything else about what I saw.”
“We picked it up in the third period. Kinda rusty in the first and the second, just getting going. In the third we really picked it up which is nice. Unfortunately we didn’t get the win, but I think we pulled together really well at the end,” Klienbach said.
“What I saw as the game progressed was better decision making,” Equale said.
“I think we played a lot better in the third, than we did in the first two,” Faber added during her presser. “I think the puck movement was really good through the neutral zone, and we had a lot of speed coming into the zone. We’re only going to get better every game, and I think that was a good step, that third period.”
The Whale also killed off seven of eight penalties.
“Our penalty kill is something that we really want to take a lot of pride in,” Equale said. “We made some adjustments to try to get some back door plays. One of their goals was a back door play on the power play, that we just needed to make an adjustment too but it’s something that if we take that many penalties in a game, we better have a good penalty kill.”
“It’s difficult, it’s tiring, it’s hard to control your emotions,” Faber said of the many kills. “To be honest, myself as well. I got a little heated out there. I need to do a better job as a leader to control your emotions. I think we did a good job in the third obviously staying out of those.”
The first game marked only the Whale’s third game playing together after two exhibition games against Russia with plenty of new faces in the lineup. Klienbach credited the exhibitions with helping her prep for the games that count.
“I know me, coming out of college for my first season with the Whale in the NWHL,” she said. “It’s a lot different than where I played, so obviously I took those, and I’m actually really glad we had those exhibition games, so I could actually prepare, and be ready and know what to expect from the actual season games.”
One of the players who saw a change was Juana Baribeau who is a full time player for the Whale, after serving as a practice player last year. In the opener she played a great deal of minutes on the ice and was had a major role on both sides of the ice.
“It’s a big change going from playing just a little bit last year, and this year being on power play, and PKs. I take every game, and just want to go out there and just get the job done, when I’m on the PK, get the PK done, power play, try to get those goals in there. Just do everything I can to get some goals on the scoreboard,” Baribeau said.
Baribeau also spoke of the team’s changes overall.
“A lot of the team chemistry is improved since last year,” Baribeau offered and then added compliments for the new players. “They just have the drive, they want to get on the ice, they want to play…having them want to be out there just makes us want to help them out and get better at everything. That’s helping out a lot for team chemistry.”
Klienbach was optimistic when speaking of the team’s progress.
“You could just tell that this game, we were a lot more together playing as a time. It’s nice to finally start clicking with each other…it’s nice to see us actually all start to mesh and get to really know where we are.”
Next week the Whale travel up to Warrior Ice Arena to face the Boston Pride, and Buffalo returns home to welcome in the Metropolitan Riveters.
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(This is a not exhaustive very imperfect list of noticed plays that might not make the score sheet. It is very possible a player has far more of any sort of play than are noticed in the heat of action. It is what it is. Read these more as a player had “at least” what is noted here. Note the language is a bit stilted, I’m trying to figure out how to make the information flow better.)
Kept the puck from crossing the blue line during power plays several times. Got the puck in her zone and got it out. Also fed Buie for a scoring chance.
Had at least one block, and kept the puck in the Whale zone multiple times to prolong offensive chances. This included when the Connecticut net was empty late in the third.
Prevented the puck from crossing the blue line on the power play, and also at even strength. Stole the biscuit in the Beauts end and brought it all the way into the Whale end. She also during a penalty kill had the puck in the Connecticut zone wasting time, and even had a shot. She had at least one block and initiated several zone entries. She also tried to get a shot on the Whale empty net.
Had multiple scoring chances during the game, including on the power play and at even strength. She also collected the puck in the defensive zone and brought it down ice to start a try. Kept the puck from exiting the Whale zone at least one.
Snagged the puck in the Whale end during the power play and had at least one power play show. She also skated the puck in and had other scoring chances. Acquired the puck in the Connecticut zone at least once at even strength.
Was noticed intercepting the puck in the neutral zone, also disrupting a Whale zone entry, having a least one block, and keeping it in the opponent’s end at least twice. Also collected the disc in the Beauts zone and got it out safely.
Intercepted a Whale pass in their zone to start a scoring try. Also deflected a CT clearing attempt.
Her presence seemed to be felt every single shift she was on the ice. She fought to get the puck across the blue line into the Whale zone. Also got the puck on her side of the ice and skated it in for an attack try. She also had a clear on the penalty kill, and during several Pks she wasted time possessing the puck in the Whale zone. She also skated in for another scoring chance during even strength play. Also during a penalty kill she got to a Whale pass and had a scoring try anyway. She had at least one block, kept the puck in the CT zone during an attack, and disrupted at least one Whale scoring try.
Blocked a Whale centering pass.
Skated the puck in and set up a scoring chance by Schroka. Also had a good opportunity on a power play but was unable to convert.
Was very prominent in the Beauts power play managing several shots, and keeping the puck in the zone. She also had at least one block, fought the puck out of her zone several times, and kept the puck in the Whale end during an attack.
Had shots at even strength and on the power play. Also prevented the Whale from getting the puck out of their zone leading to another scoring chance. She grabbed the puck in the CT zone as well.
Did a lot defensively including disrupting a Whale zone entry, getting the puck and getting it out of the zone multiple times, clearing the puck from the neutral zone on the PK, and stealing the disc in the Whale zone.
Sent the puck away from danger in the Beauts end at several points in the game.
Numerous times in the game she not only skated out of the Beauts side but brought the puck all the way down to start an attack.
Had a variety of zone entries including after stealing the puck in the neutral zone. She at another point pass it to Babstock for scoring chance. At another point she shot it herself, and later found Goldsmith as a target during a scoring attempt. She had at least two blocks, one of which cleared the puck on a penalty kill. She cleared the puck at least twice on the penalty kill in addition to that. Also her zone exit got to Kleinbach who took it into the Beauts end.
Had at least 3 blocks or deflections of Buffalo pucks on a penalty kill. She also cleared it at least once a skater down, and exited the zone at even strength. She also kept the puck in the Beauts zone multiple times and had several scoring chances herself.
At one point she moved the puck down the ice from zone to zone. She also intercepted a Beauts pass in the Whale zone, and disrupted at least one opposing zone entry.
Her defensive play really stood out in the game. She had at least two blocks, one of which came on the penalty kill. She also had at least one clear during the skater disadvantage. In addition to multiple steals in the Whale defensive zone, she also disrupted at least one zone entry. On the offensive side she kept the puck in the Beauts end many times, and had a scoring chance of her own.
In addition to her goal she kept the puck in the Beauts zone at least once.
A variety of plays came off her stick including a zone exit, disrupting the Beauts attack, a clear at even strength, keeping the puck in the Beauts end, and stealing the puck in the neutral zone and skating in on the attack for a scoring chance.
In addition to two blocks on the penalty kill she also got the puck out of the zone multiple times on the PK as well. She skated the puck in on the attack and had a great scoring opportunity. She also disrupted a Buffalo pass in their own zone and kept the puck in the zone at another instance.
On the penalty kill she started the sequence that got the puck out. She also had at least one clear during a penalty. She acquired the puck several times in the defensive end at even strength and moved it out. She also had at least one block, kept the puck in the opposing end multiple times, and had a scoring chance herself. Very importantly when a rebound bounced off Rossman during a penalty kill she whisked it out of danger.
In addition to her goal she had numerous scoring chances and also fed it to Baribeau for another good one. She also skated in and weaved between four Buffalo defenders before they finally stopped her.
Buffalo threw all sorts of attempts at her on breakaways, and during the eight power plays they had. Rossman handled most of these attempts including an urgent save when the puck bounced behind her.
Had multiple exits from the Whale zone, also snatched the puck in the neutral zone. She even had a break in on net of her own.
Disrupted a Buffalo attempt and exited the zone. She also brought a puck in at another juncture. Later she intercepted a puck in the neutral zone and skated in. She had at least one block on the penalty kill.
She had numerous shots, and multiple clears on the penalty kill. She also disrupted several Buffalo scoring attempts and on the other side of things kept the puck in the Beauts zone several times as well. She also got to the puck in the neutral zone even while falling down and whapped it back into the Beauts end during a penalty kill.
She both skated the puck out of Whale end multiple times, and also kept it in the Buffalo end several times too. Had at least one block, and acquired the disc in the neutral zone and started the attack.
Babstock generate multiple scoring chances for both herself and for others using her stickhandling and speed. She had several steals in the Buffalo defensive zone that caused opportunities. Though she acquired the puck all over the ice before zone entries. She also intercepted a Buffalo pass in her own zone and fed it up to Fluke who fed it to Baribeau for a try. Babstock had at least two clears on the penalty kill and intercepted a Buffalo puck in the neutral zone to start a short handed effort.