Weekend Sweep Has Beauts Feeling Confident Heading to Tampa

by Jay Ashdown

As the Beauts prepare for their trip to Tampa for the 2022 Isobel Cup Playoffs, they’ll head to the Sunshine state on a very high note. The team won back-to-back games for just the second time all season, and finally swept their first weekend series of the season as well.

The best part? They did so against the Boston Pride - the team they will face this Friday in a single-game elimination postseason matchup.

The wins for Buffalo were two very complete game efforts. Regulation was not enough for either game, but the team dug in and found ways to take it home in overtime. The sweep itself is a huge confidence boost for the team as they prepare for Boston for a third straight game.

“Honestly, I just think it’s big,” said goaltender Carly Jackson. “Both of those wins, it wasn’t just one player or two players. Both were big team wins and that’s what we needed right now coming off of last weekend and rolling into playoffs. The only way we’re going to win is together, so being able to jump off of that for our last regular season series is everything we need to get some wins in Tampa.”

Jackson got the start for game one and was brilliant The winner of the 2022 Beauts MVP award, stopped 27 of the 28 shots she faced en route to a big win. The only goal she allowed was a power play goal from the point by Boston’s Sammy Davis which took a funny bounce and eluded Jackson’s vision. Otherwise, she was equal to the task on every opportunity she faced on Saturday.

“As she always says, ‘clear mind’, she’s not thinking, she’s just playing,” said Beauts head coach Rhea Coad on Jackson’s game one performance. “I’m sure that [goal] didn’t really do much to her. The game’s just going on and she knew her players were going to score.”

Despite going down 1-0 to the Pride, the Beauts responded at the halfway point of the second when Taylor Wasylk sprung Anjelica Diffendal ahead on a two-on-one opportunity. Diffendal made a pass across the slot to an open Dominique Kremer who made no mistake to tie the game at one.

Neither team could find the back of the net in the third, so the two teams went to overtime. After a turnover in the Beauts end, the Pride tried to break the puck out to get a rush ahead to win the game.

Emilie Harley was having none of that.

Harley made an unbelievable effort and turned the jets on to break up the rush defensively. After an outstanding defensive play to negate a Boston scoring chance, she took matters into her own hands, carrying the puck into the Boston zone and getting a shot on goal. The puck caromed off of the Boston net, and after a number of bounces landed on the stick of Kennedy Ganser who put home the game-winner.

The game was a fun one for the team, and the win felt great, as Beauts fans in Northtown Center went crazy. The Beauts played solid team defense, got outstanding goaltending, and converted when needed in order to get the win.

With Jackson’s outstanding performance, Coad decided to give her the nod for game two as well.

“Yesterday, CJ played unreal, so there was no way I couldn’t play her,” Coad said.

Game Two saw the Beauts strike first this time, as Buffalo converted on the power play with 42 seconds remaining in the opening period. Ganser drove to the net and stashed home a rebound after the initial chance by Diffendal was denied by Pride goaltender Lovisa Selander.

The Beauts, despite winning the previous game, took their first lead of the two-game series, and went into the locker room up by one. However, as the second period progressed, things started to go awry. Boston tied the game on a power play goal by Jillian Dempsey, and then quickly took the lead less than a minute later when Sammy Davis roofed a gorgeous shot past Jackson.

Buffalo stayed the course, and they were rewarded when Wasylk found the back of the net on the power play for her first career PHF goal. It was an outstanding moment for the Beauts for several reasons: The team was able to tie the game, Wasylk was able to score her first PHF goal, and Dana Trivigno recorded her first point with the Beauts in just her second game with the team.

The Beauts once again were able to overcome a deficit to Boston, and after another scoreless third period, both teams went to overtime for a second consecutive game.

Just 32 seconds into the extra frame, Boston’s Kali Flanagan took a penalty for body checking, and the Beauts power play went to work again.

Buffalo finished off the win and the sweep with their third power play goal of the night, as Diffendal went end-to-end, walked through the offensive zone and fired the puck past Selander to send the fans home happy.

The Beauts split the season series with the Pride, with every single game being a one goal decision. While Boston finished the regular season with a 10-5-5 record, the head-to-head matchups provde that the Beauts can not only hang with Boston, but they can beat them too. Th

“We’re keeping this in our heads, we’re rolling,” said Coad. “We’re going to remember this feeling, we’re going to keep this feeling, and we’re going to play for this feeling next Friday.”

The mentality for the Beauts may ultimately be what helps them as they roll into the playoffs on a high note. The Pride on the other hand, have lost five straight games, all in overtime. Picking up points throughout the season is crucial, but five straight losses no matter how they come can wear on a team mentally. This is where the Beauts should have an edge over Boston.

The other edge the Beauts may have is how low-scoring both teams are. The Pride average 2.4 goals per game, which is only slightly better than the Beauts 2.2 goals per game. The Beauts maintain a slight advantage on the power play, as Buffalo converts at a 0.10% clip, which is better than the Pride’s 0.06 conversion rate.

The clear advantage in net goes to Boston, as Katie Burt has posted ridiculous stats this year for the Pride. In 14 games, she has a 7-2-2 record with a tremendous .958% save percentage and goals against average of 1.41, leading the league by a wide margin in both categories. She has also posted three shutouts this season and is first in that category as well.

While Jackson’s numbers aren’t quite as polished as Burt’s, she’s still an incredibly capable goaltender who has the ability to steal games for the Beauts. She showed that ability this past weekend, as she was named one of the PHF’s Three Stars of the Week alongside teammate Ganser. Jackson was given the honor after stopping 53 of the 56 shots she faced.

With it being a single elimination matchup, anything can happen. The Beauts may be the sixth seed, but the team has a lot of fight in them, and with these last two wins the team may just be peaking at the right time.