BEAUTS AT THE BREAK: STACEY AND MJP EMERGING AS PRIME PRODUCERS
By Mike Murphy
Before the 2019-20 NWHL season began the Buffalo Beauts were arguably the biggest unknown in the league. General manager Mandy Cronin had just three players with NWHL experience on her roster – Kelsey Neumann, Taylor Accursi, and captain Corinne Buie – and seven total players with experience playing professional hockey in North America in Europe.
The NWHL’s youngest team enters the Four Nations break in the NWHL regular season with a 3-2-0 record, although it is worth noting that all three of their victories came at the expense of the Connecticut Whale.
Among skaters who are newcomers to the NWHL this year, no player has made a bigger splash than Brooke Stacey. Stacey put the women’s hockey world on notice by becoming just the second player in NWHL history to score a penalty shot in a regular season game against Lovisa Selander. She’s also scored six goals in her first five games and all eight of her points thus far have been primary. In short, Stacey is a gamebreaker.
Rookie defender Marie-Jo Pelletier has also been a bright spot for the Beauts in the first chapter of the season. She ranks second among rookie defenders in scoring and leads Buffalo’s blue line in points with two goals and four assists. Of course, the biggest point of her NWHL career to date was her game-winning OT goal against the Whale on Oct. 13.
It’s no secret that Buffalo’s greatest weapon through the first five games of the season has been its power play. Currently ranked second in the league in power play efficiency, the Beauts have executed on 30.43 percent of their opportunities. Accursi and Lenka Čurmová have been the big guns on the advantage thus far– both have scored two PP goals. However, Buffalo's power play has been far from one-dimensional. All told, 10 different Beauts skaters have points on the power play.
Thanks to steadfast goaltending from newcomer Mariah Fujimagari and veteran Kelsey Neumann, Buffalo also boasts a 90 percent penalty kill – the most successful in the league. That success rate has undoubtedly been helped by their schedule and a small sample size of five games, but it’s important to note that Buffalo surrendered just one goal on eight kills to Boston’s lethal offense in the third weekend of the season. Clearly, this group takes a lot of pride in killing penalties.
One area that head coach Pete Perram needs to address is the play of his team at even strength. At the Four Nations break, the Beauts have a -9 goal differential at evens – which is tied for the lowest in the league with the Metropolitan Riveters. Furthermore, the Beauts have scored more goals on the power play than they have at 5-on-5. Needless to say, that is not a sustainable model for success.
Another area of concern is how often the Beauts find themselves in penalty trouble. At the break, they are averaging six minor penalties per game. Perram will definitely want to see that number come down, but he’ll need to find a solution that doesn’t jeopardize the Beauts’ playing their physical, high-tempo brand of hockey.
The Buffalo Beauts return to action on Nov. 16 with a road game against the Boston Pride. The following day, Buffalo will travel south to play a much-anticipated game against the Connecticut Whale in Danbury. The Beauts will be back home at the Northtown Center on Nov. 23-24 when they host the Minnesota Whitecaps for a weekend series, which marks the first time the two clubs will have crossed sticks since the 2019 Isobel Cup Final. Tickets are available at beauts.nwhl.zone/tickets and all Beauts games can be watched streaming free on twitch.tv/nwhl and twitch.tv/nwhl2.
Photo Courtesy: Mike Hetzel
All data courtesy of NWHL.zone and the author's own tracking.