BEAUTS AND WHITECAPS BOTH FOCUSED ON BIG WEEKEND
By Nathaniel A. Oliver
Both the Minnesota Whitecaps (13-5-2) and the Buffalo Beauts (7-12-1) have four games remaining in the 2019-20 regular season - the first two of which happen to be against one another.
The Beauts will play host to Minnesota this weekend for a pair of games inside of the Northtown Center. The Whitecaps have the advantage in the series thus far, having won three of the four previous meetings between the two clubs. Buffalo hopes to even the score by taking these last two home contests.
"I believe in everyone on this team," said Beauts forward Taylor Accursi, "and when it comes down to it, having confidence is the biggest factor. If everyone on the team focuses on what strengths they bring to the team, then confidence is there and winning the rest of the games is possible."
Buffalo needs to get through the Whitecaps first, which is far easier said than done.
Minnesota has allowed the second-least amount of goals this season (44) - just one more than the first-place Boston Pride. Similarly, the Whitecaps have scored the second-most amount of goals by putting home 82 across their 20 games so far. Eight times this season Minnesota has scored at least five goals in a game. Forwards Allie Thunstrom (19), Jonna Curtis (11) and Nicole Schammel (10) all have tallied double digits in goals.
"Our team has been really focusing on special teams and scoring goals at practice," said Whitecaps forward Sam Donovan. "If we continue to capitalize on our opportunities, I think we will have a great weekend out in Buffalo!"
While Minnesota is sitting comfortably at second place in the NWHL standings, the Beauts have struggled considerably in the back half of the season. Buffalo has just one win in their past 10 games and appears slated to finish in fourth place. Perhaps the only way that the club can move up into the third spot is by winning-out the rest of the season, including these two games against Minnesota.
"To come away with wins this weekend I think we need to trust in our abilities, and most importantly, trust in each other," said Buffalo defender Richelle Skarbowski. "When we focus on doing all the little things right and believe in our teammates to do the same, we play our best. This can get us the results we are looking for this weekend."
Skarbowski has played in all 20 of the Beauts regular season games this season. She has blocked 10 shots, while primarily serving as the third defense pairing alongside Ana Orzechowski. Skarbowski and the rest of the Beauts' defense corps will need to be incredibly stingier than what they have been. The team has allowed an NWHL-worst 95 goals against.
But what Buffalo has lacked in keeping the puck out of their own net, they have endeavored to make up for with some of their own firepower. The team's 19 power play goals are second only to Boston's 21. Seven different Beauts have reached double digits in points this season, including the team's leading scorer Accursi (16-8-24).
"We need to make sure we play solid defense for 60 minutes," said Whitecaps captain Winny Brodt Brown. "Our forwards need to capitalize on their opportunities."
Saturday, Feb. 22's game at 2:30 p.m. EST is the Beauts "Teddy Bear Toss" event. Fans are encouraged to bring new, unused teddy bears to the game and throw them out on the ice whenever Buffalo scores their first goal. The bears will then be collected and donated to "WNY Heroes" - a non-profit organization that provides members of the armed services, and the widows and children of deceased veterans with access to essential services, financial assistance and resources that support their lives and sustain their dignity.
Sunday Feb. 23's at 1:00 p.m. EST game will be Buffalo's "Hockey Fights Cancer" game. The American Cancer Society will be on hand to collect donations. The Beauts players will use lavender hockey tape and wear "Hockey Fights Cancer" stickers on their helmets. It will also be "Beauts Photo Day" in which fans can take photos after the game with all of their favorite Buffalo players.
Photo Credit: Mike Hetzel, Tom Morris