Stacey Scores Game-Winning Goal for Beauts in First Game of NWHL Season
By Nathaniel A. Oliver
The Danbury Ice Arena played host to the first game of 2019-20 NWHL regular season. The Connecticut Whale welcomed the Buffalo Beauts into town for the first of five scheduled meetings between the two teams. The two squads played close, hard-fought hockey for most of the game, but it was Buffalo that came away with a 3-1 victory.
"It's huge, especially on the road," said recently named Beauts captain Corinne Buie. "It was a test of our team. We have so many new players, so we had a lot of people stepping up today. It took all of us as a group, and I'm so happy that we grabbed that win today."
It did not take long for the Beauts to get onto the board. With Connecticut's Jordan Brickner in the box for holding at 4:06 of the opening period, Buffalo defender Lenka Čurmová fired a shot from the point that eluded Whale goalie Sonjia Shelly only 23 seconds later. The power play tally was the first NWHL goal of the Slovakian blueliner's career.
Beauts goaltender Mariah Fujimagari turned aside all eight shots that she faced in the first period. A few of which came from point blank range, as the Whale endeavored to capitalize on two separate Taylor Accursi minor infractions.
When the second period rolled around, Shelly made some superb stops of her own. Not even four minutes into the second, she stonewalled a Buie one-timer off an Accursi pass. Less than a minute later, Shelly turned aside a high slapper from Iveta Klimašová.
The Whale would tie the score at the 10:17 mark of the second period when the Whale's Grace Klienbach fired one home through the pads of Fujimagari. The Whale had been pressing on the attack, and through determination eventually capitalized after putting 15 shots on net. Emma Vlasic earned the primary assist on Klienbach's goal.
"It's always a battle with (the Whale)," Buie said. It's always a gritty game, and it's just who is winning those battles. We are going to be playing them four more times, so we'll get to know them a lot."
The Whale and the Beauts would remain deadlocked through most of the third period. With only 3:08 remaining in the game, Buffalo's Brooke Stacey got a full head of steam and carried the puck up ice by the benches. She was able to get almost a clear-cut breakaway, before putting the puck by Shelly to make it 2-1 Beauts.
"Pretty exciting!" Stacey said about her first NWHL goal. "I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but then it was in the back of the net. So that made me pretty happy."
In the final moments of the game, the Whale would pull Shelly in favor of an extra attacker. It would be for naught, as Buie put home an empty-net goal with 23.6 seconds remaining. The goal was the 20th of Buie's NWHL career, and sealed the 3-1 win for the Beauts. Accursi earned an assist by corralling the puck and setting up her captain.
Buffalo's next two games are also on the road. The Beauts play the Pride in back-to-back games at Boston's Warrior Ice Arena on October 12th and 13th. Tickets for both contests can be purchased at www.nwhl.zone/tickets.
"I think it's good to start right off the bat to get a win under our belt," Stacey went on to say. "We know what we can do as a team, and it showed especially during the third period. I think we really came together as a team, and if we carry that for the next upcoming games we will have no problems."
Photo Credit: Bryan Johnson