Beauts and Riveters Ready for Labatt Blue Buffalo Believes Classic on Saturday
By Nathaniel A. Oliver
As the year of 2019 comes to a close, two old NWHL rivals are ready to face each other for the first time this season in the NWHL's first regular season outdoor game. This Saturday the Buffalo Beauts will host the Metropolitan Riveters in the Labatt Blue Buffalo Believes Classic at the Buffalo Riverworks at 7:00 p.m. ET. You won't want to miss this one.
"Nothing is better than some good ol' outdoor hockey," said Beauts defender-forward Ashley Birdsall. "Playing against the Riveters for the first time this season, the main focus is to play our game - 'Beauts hockey'. Strong in the defensive zone, winning the puck battles, and making effective, smart plays in all three zones."
Five points currently separate the Beauts and the Riveters in the standings. Buffalo (6-5-1) currently sits in third place with 13 points, and recently became the first team to steal a point off of the first-place Boston Pride. Metropolitan is in fourth place at the moment with a 4-7-0 record, worth eight points in the standings. The Beauts and the Riveters are both fighting for points to secure home-ice advantage for the playoffs, which should add plenty of drama to this must-watch game.
A lot of history exists between the two squads - namely, the Riveters defeating the Beauts in the 2018 Isobel Cup Final. Eight players still remain from that championship game - Metro players Kiira Dosdall, Madison Packer, Rebecca Morse, Kelly Nash and Colleen Murphy (who was with the Beauts at the time), and Buffalo players Corinne Buie, Taylor Accursi and Kelsey Neumann.
For the 28 other players that will be in the lineup for the Buffalo Believes Classic, it will be the very first time that they will be facing each other. As excited as that prospect is, it pales in comparison to the chance to play outdoors.
"I think the coolest thing is that it's just like childhood," said Riveters forward Tatiana Shatalova. "It's fun. There is more joy just like children for such games. I think I'll like that the most. This will be my first serious game played on open ice."
Beauts' captain Corinne Buie might have the biggest individual advantage for Saturday's Buffalo Believes Classic because she's already played in one outdoor NWHL game. Four years ago, Buie, then playing with the Pride, played in the Outdoor Women's Classic against Les Canadiennes de Montréal of the CWHL. Players on both sides of the ice have experience playing outdoor hockey before their NWHL careers. Of course, the elements could prove to be a significant factor in the game, which could give players like Buie an edge.
Special teams will likely be a factor in both games as well. The Beauts (166 PIMs) and the Riveters (148) are the two most-penalized teams in the league. That being the case, Buffalo possesses the NWHL's best power play (.273) and penalty-kill (.881). The Riveters, on the other hand, rank fourth (.140) and third (.797) in both categories respectively.
After the Labatt Blue Buffalo Believes Classic on Saturday, the Beauts will host the Riveters at Northtown Center on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 1:00 p.m. Tickets to both contests can be purchased at beauts.nwhl.zone/tickets and both games can be watched streaming live and free on the NWHL on Twitch.
Photo Credit: Mike Hetzel