Pelletier OT Goal Caps Beauts’ Comeback in 5-4 Win over the Whale
By Nathaniel A. Oliver and Jane Norton
For Buffalo’s NWHL team, it was a beautiful day in the new neighborhood.
In heart-stopping fashion, the Buffalo Beauts gave the large crowd at their home opener at Northtown Center at Amherst a day to remember, defeating Connecticut 5-4 on an overtime goal by Marie Jo-Pelletier. The Beauts had to overcome deficits of 3-0 after the first period and 4-2 in the third period to earn the victory.
“I’m so proud of our team and happy for our fans,” said Buffalo captain Corinne Buie, who had two assists in the game. “Northtown Center was pretty packed for our first game there, and that says a lot about the Beauts fans and everyone who loves women’s hockey in this community. The energy in the arena was incredible, and we wanted to pull out this win for them.”
The Whale jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period on the first two goals in the NWHL career of Jane Morrisette and a tally by captain Shannon Doyle.
“At the intermission, we talked about staying on-plan,” said Buffalo head coach Pete Perram. “We needed to continue executing our game plan, and we needed to be patient. I asked them to believe.”
The Beauts bought in. Buffalo came back in the second period with power play goals by Taylor Accursi and Lenka Čurmová. Buffalo's Brooke Stacey earned the primary assist on the goal. The goal was Čurmová second of the season.
The Whale would regain their two-goal lead with five minutes into the third on a goal by Sarah Hughson – the first of her NWHL career. Morrisette picked up an assist on the goal for her third point of the afternoon.
“At 4-2, we could have easily broken, but we didn’t lose faith,” said Buie.
That’s when the Beauts forged their comeback. With the Whale's Orlando in the box for a hooking minor, Brooke Stacey fired a wrister from the high slot that beat goaltender Sonjia Shelly. The goal was Stacey's fourth of the season with assists from Erin Gehen and Klimášová. The assist was Gehen's first NWHL point.
"I try not to think about it, because then I'm like 'Oh, I need to score'," Stacey said about her impressive scoring streak. "I just want to go into the game and play as good as I can, and if the goal comes, then awesome. I hope they keep coming.”
Buffalo tied the game at 8:06 of the third when rookie forward Kim Brown tipped home a loose puck alongside the Whale net. Beauts assistant captain MJ Pelletier quickly grabbed the puck out of the net to save for Brown as a keepsake. Čurmová earned the lone assist.
“We kept on fighting back,” said Perram. “It felt to me on the bench that everyone on our team still believed we could win. Our players showed the character we knew we had when we put this roster together.”
With the scored tied at 4-4, overtime was needed to determine a victor. Brickner would get called off for hooking with 3:42 remaining. With only 24-seconds left on the clock in the extra session, Pelletier pounced on a rebound to Shelly's right and put it home to the delight of the Buffalo faithful. The game-winner was Pelletier’s first NWHL goal.
“I’m still on a high from this win and the entire day,” Buie said well after the game was over and the final autograph was signed for the Beauts’ faithful. “For MJ to get her first goal that way, she really deserves it. Such a great player and an important part of our team. And the fans were phenomenal. They inspired us to make our comeback. I’m so glad we were able to send everyone home happy.”
Four different Beauts had multi-point afternoons: Stacey, Čurmová, Klimášová and Buie.
“This team is incredible,” proud Buffalo GM Mandy Cronin said before leaving the arena. “I love the resiliency of this squad. That comeback was exactly what I expected of them.”
Photo Credits: Mike Hetzel