Boston, Buffalo face off in play-in series

by Hannah Bevis

With only one spot left in the Isobel Cup playoffs, the Buffalo Beauts and the Boston Pride are going toe-to-toe to earn their place in the postseason. 

Expect this series to be physical and high-stakes - with a playoff spot on the line, you can expect every person on the ice to elevate their game. And in a shortened season like this, anything can happen.

Here’s what to look for going into this series:

Familiar rivals

One advantage both teams have going into this contest is that they’ve played each other before. Coaches and players have mentioned how difficult it is going into each game not knowing what to expect from their opponent. Boston and Buffalo played each other once already in the regular season, with the Pride rolling to a 5-1 win.

That familiarity will allow coaches and players to prepare more effectively for this matchup, and in a best-of-three series, every little bit helps.

Boston’s scoring touch

Boston has struggled out of the gate this season, but their one win this season has come against Buffalo, and it was a strong effort all the way through. 

The Pride’s offense was firing on all cylinders in that victory: star players McKenna Brand, Christina Putigna, and Kaleigh Fratkin got on the board, and new players like Sammy Davis and Taylor Wenczkowski netted their first NWHL goals. 

They also put themselves in a strong position to win, drawing seven penalties and scoring twice on the power play. If their special teams can start clicking again, the Pride have a strong chance to take this series. 

Buffalo’s back end

Though the Beauts are still looking for their first win, they’ve shown that they’re a serious competitor, no matter who the opponent is. They took Connecticut to a shootout in their first game this season, and kept within a goal in their tilt against Toronto. 

Head coach Pete Perram told the media that when looking at their team this season, they wanted to start from the back end and build their team around that. They’ve certainly succeeded in that sense - goaltender Carly Jackson has been a revelation in net, currently leading the league in saves (122) and sitting with a .931 save percentage. 

Her defense has been helping her out as well on both sides of the puck. Of the eight Beauts players who currently have a point, four of them are defenders. Anchored by returners Marie-Jo Pelletier (two assists, ten blocked shots) and Lenka Curmova (one assist), the defense has found strength in newcomers like speedy Whitney Dove (one assist) and Alyson Matteau (one assist, 15 blocked shots).

Add in forwards like Jordan Juron (one goal), Kristen Lewicki (one goal, two assists), and Autumn MacDougall (two goals), and you’ve got some impressive depth. If both the offense and defense rise to the task, Buffalo will be a tough team to beat in this series.