Beauts drop both games to Whitecaps ahead of All-Star break

by Hannah Bevis

Despite some of their most consistent play all year and streaks of stellar offense, the Beauts couldn’t solve Amanda Leveille and the Minnesota Whitecaps this weekend, dropping both contests in 3-1 and 6-1 losses.

The first game was a close contest, with both teams going back and forth in a scoreless first period. The Beauts jumped out to an early lead in the second period after pressuring the Whitecaps heavily, with Claudia Kepler cleaning up a rebound off of a Cassidy MacPherson shot just over two minutes into the frame. The goal was Kepler’s first PHF tally.

“It started just with like a good forecheck. Missy (Segall) was going pretty hard into the corners and we won a couple battles, and then switched sides over to (MacPherson). She had a great play, bringing the puck kind of along the goal line, she just threw it on net. I timed it coming in, right off the pad, (I) kind of dove and just slapped at it and it went in,” Kepler said on her first PHF goal. “It's a good first goal.”

The Whitecaps didn’t wait long to strike back; four minutes later, Allie Thunstrom put away the game-tying goal with assists going to Patti Marshall and Meaghan Pezon. The score stayed knotted at one goal apiece for the rest of the period.

With the game still tied, the Whitecaps capitalized on the power play early in the third frame. Ashleigh Brykaliuk situated herself high in the slot and got a tip off a blast from Marshall at the point, deflecting the puck past netminder Carly Jackson to give Minnesota the go-ahead goal. Thunstrom sealed the win for the Whitecaps with an empty-netter goal, her second tally of the game.

Despite the loss, Beauts head coach Rhea Coad found positives with her team’s play against the Whitecaps.

“We played, in my opinion, the first 60 minutes of consistent hockey that we have played this year. Things we liked the most is them getting above the puck. We were tough to play against,” Coad said. “A big thing we’ve struggled with this year is O-zone possession and today, we definitely found some success holding the puck in their zone with a ton of shots and traffic in front.”

The Beauts opened up Sunday’s contest with serious energy, hemming the Whitecaps in their own zone and controlling possession for much of the opening frame. Amanda Leveille stood strong in net, turning away several golden opportunities from the home team. But it was the Whitecaps who struck first, with

Thunstrom picking up right where she left off on Sunday afternoon; the forward opened the scoring for Minnesota on a five-on-three power play with just under eight minutes to play in the first.

“I think we came out today in the first and were flying, I think we were all over them. I don't think we felt the effects from yesterday at all,” Emma Keenan said on her team’s first period play. “I think…it was one of our strongest periods of the weekend, to be honest. That second period, stuff just started not going our way.”

The Whitecaps held onto that 1-0 lead going into the first intermission before exploding offensively in the middle frame. Haley Mack picked up a juicy rebound in the slot for Minnesota’s second goal 44 seconds into the period on another power play, and less than a minute later, Jonna Curtis got a shorthanded opportunity on the penalty kill and didn’t miss, sliding the puck past Jackson to give her team a 3-0 lead.

Thunstrom got her second goal of the game off of a gorgeous feed in front of the net with just under 10 minutes to play, and Audra Morrison capped off the four-goal second period with a breakaway goal, staying cool under pressure with a Beauts player hot on her heels.

The Whitecaps kept that offensive firepower going in the third, with Curtis getting her second goal of the game 48 seconds into the period.

The Beauts answered back with 9:15 remaining in the third; Autumn MacDougall put home a rebound past Amanda Leveille to send the teddy bears flying for the Beauts’ Teddy Bear Toss game. Ultimately, MacDougall’s goal was the only one the Beauts managed to get past Leveille.

Despite the two losses, Coad is happy with the progress the team is making.

“I really feel this is a process, and if you look at our game this weekend, compared to last weekend, yeah, they're not W’s, but there's a huge jump in (our play),” Coad said. “In the end, we're starting to get rolling with games. I think honestly, we're just going to peak at the right time and we'll make a push in playoffs.”

The Beauts will get a break from game action next week with the All-Star break, though you can watch eight Beauts - Marie-Jo Pelletier, Autumn MacDougall, Dominique Kremer, Anjelica Diffendal, Carly Jackson, Kennedy Ganser, Taylor Accursi, and Cassidy Vinkle - will represent Buffalo at the All-Star Game, held at Northtown Center in Amherst. The Beauts next game will be a rematch against Minnesota on Saturday, February 5 at 8 p.m. ET.