by NWHL Media

By Jane Norton

On a perfect night for outdoor hockey in Western New York, the Labatt Blue NWHL Buffalo Believes Classic between the Beauts and Riveters was played before a sellout crowd of more than 1,200 fans at RiverWorks and season-high viewership on Twitch.

And a classic, it was.

Despite a heroic effort from the hometown Beauts and four goals in the third period by Taylor Accursi – that is not a typo – the Riveters defeated Buffalo, 7-4, on a glorious night for women’s professional hockey.

“An awesome experience,” said Accursi. “The fans of the Beauts and NWHL really took a stand tonight. Hope we do a game like this one every season.”

“It shows the work that (Commissioner) Dani Rylan and everyone with the league, the teams and the players’ association does to build the NWHL,” said Riveters captain Madison Packer, who had two goals and two assists to lead her team.

Now, on to the game…

The final ten minutes of the third period was – what’s the word? – bonkers. With the Beauts down 3-0, Riverworks came to life when fan-favorite Accursi scored for the Beauts midway through the third period. However, the Riveters answered and seemed to muffle the enthusiasm of the sellout crowd when Brooke Avery scored just 32 seconds later to make it 4-1.

It may have felt to many that the game was over, but not Pete Perram’s Beauts. Accursi scored at 14:20. Accursi scored at 16:15. Accursi scored at 16:40. Just like that, the Labatt Blue NWHL Buffalo Believes Classic was tied, and the capacity crowd lost it.

“My linemates got me the puck,” was how the humble Accursi described her classic, four-goal third period.

But there’s something special about the Riveters’ resiliency this season. You would have thought they would be deflated blowing a 4-1 lead late in the third, and hearing the roars from the crowd at RiverWorks. Nope.

Less than a minute after Accursi’s fourth, Tatiana Shatalova – getting better with each game in her rookie season – scored the game-winner. Packer added her second of the game 37 seconds later, and Cailey Hutchison slid home an empty-netter.

“That was a strong team effort from everyone on the roster,” said Packer. “It’s a proud moment to play a tough team like the Beauts before this wild crowd and come out with a win.”

Despite the loss, the Beauts understood the gravity of the moment, and the bigger picture.

“Buffalo fans are the best fans in women’s hockey, so this was the perfect place to have the NWHL’s first outdoor regular season game,” said Beauts captain Corinne Buie. “The stands were filled and there were so many fans standing everywhere they could find an open spot. The atmosphere was incredible.”

Photo Credits: Kate Frese, Mike Hetzel