NEUMANN SHINES IN BEAUTS' 3-1 VICTORY OVER WHALE
By Dan Rice
After dropping a 6-1 contest to the Boston Pride less than 24 hours ago, the Buffalo Beauts (4-3-0) rallied together and rebounded with a 3-1 triumph over the Connecticut Whale (0-5-1) in Danbury on Sunday afternoon. Rookie Erin Gehen netted the eventual game-winning goal for the Beauts and goalie Kelsey Neumann returned from a lower-body injury to pick up her second NWHL win; Neumann’s previous win came in earlier in the season when she was forced to vacate her net due to an injury.
“I feel really good. After I made the split save (in the first period) I felt better,” Neumann said, unable to contain her smile. She found out on the bus ride from Boston to Connecticut that she’d be starting this game and she looked locked in from the moment the puck dropped.
“I obviously would have liked the shutout, but I’m happy to get my first (60-minute) win under my belt. This is special and I told Mariah (Fujimagari) when we were walking back to the locker room that I wasn’t trying to be emotional because it’s three years in the making,” she added.
“I’ve had great, supportive goalie partners in Bri (Brianne McLaughlin) and Lev (Amanda Leveille). Mariah has (stepped in as my partner and) been just as supportive as they are, so this is very special for me.”
Neumann finished with 41 saves and the Beauts penalty killers were a perfect 5-for-5 with a plethora of blocked shots sprinkled in leading the squad to their fourth win of the season. “We definitely needed this win coming off of yesterday, so it feels good,” said Gehen. “It was a good team win.”
Both goalies were perfect in the opening period and the game’s first goal wasn’t scored until Taylor Accursi gobbled up a loose puck at the side of the net and fired it past Whale goaltender Sonjia Shelly (24 saves in the loss) 31 seconds into the second period. “That first goal was definitely a huge momentum swing for us today,” said Accursi who now has three goals in her last four games.
Accursi nearly had her second of the game when she put on the afterburners during a penalty kill, but was denied by Shelly early in the third period. “We found a way to get the win and that’s all that really matters,” added no. 95.
The Beauts spent a lot of time on the penalty kill, but Neumann made key saves on Madelyne Evangelous, Kayla Meneghin, and Grace Klienbach. The Skaters in front of her made several big blocks over the final 40 minutes and the game stayed 1-0 in Buffalo’s favor until Gehen scored with 6:12 left in regulation.
“It’s nice to get that first (NWHL) goal out of the way but we need to get back to work on Wednesday,” said Gehen, who is already looking towards the next practice. “We have two big games coming up and that’s now the most important thing.”
Just over a minute later it was Meneghin who spoiled Neumann’s shutout bid after a goalmouth scramble but with 1:02 left and Shelly on the bench for an extra skater Kim Brown potted an empty-net goal.
“We really needed this momentum going into next weekend,” added Accursi, who like Gehen, knows that a well-rested Minnesota Whitecaps team is coming to town.
Game Notes: Klienbach and Sarah Schwenzfeier led all skaters with six shots on goal each and Hanna Beattie was the only Whale skater without a shot on goal. Iveta Klimasova led Buffalo with five shots on goal and was the only player with multiple points in the game (2 assists). Elena Gualtieri made her NWHL debut for the Whale. Connecticut plays at Boston next Saturday night while the Beauts will host Minnesota for a two-game series on Saturday and Sunday at Northtown Center. Tickets to both games are available at nwhl.zone/tickets.
My 3 Stars of the Game
1) Kelsey Neumann (BUF): 41 saves, win (2-0-0)
2) Taylor Accursi (BUF): goal (3)
3) Beauts PK: 5-for-5
Photo Credit: Bryan Johnson