by NWHL Media

By Nathaniel A. Oliver

Tonight, the Buffalo Beauts and the Minnesota Whitecaps met up in Minnesota for the first time this 2019-20 NWHL season. By the end of the game, the Whitecaps had put a decisive victory together over Buffalo and skated away with an 8-2 win.

Minnesota struck first after both teams exchanged early opportunities. As forwards Lauren Barnes and Stephanie Anderson swarmed in down low, Barnes made a marvelous behind-the-back pass to Anderson. Joined by a hustling Audra Richards, Anderson fed a pass across to Richards who tucked it home backdoor on Beauts' goalie Mariah Fujimagari. This would give the Whitecaps the 1-0 lead at 15:16.

"Steph gave me a great pass up the middle," said Barnes. "I wanted to pass far side to Audra, and quickly saw she was covered. I knew Steph was all alone behind me, and I was crossing my fingers she was going to be ready for it. Never underestimate your teammates!"

"It's always important to get the first goal," said Richards. "It sets the pace of the game and gets the girls going."

The second period would bring goals from both sides. Buffalo would temporarily tie the game at 6:14. Beauts captain Corinne Buie would fire a shot from the slot through the pads of Whitecaps' goalie Amanda Leveille to score on the power play. A secondary assist on the goal to defender Marie-Jo Pelletier would set a new NWHL record for power play points in one season by a skater.

It did not take the Whitecaps long to strike back. Less than a minute after Buffalo's goal, Minnesota forward Allie Thunstrom sped toward the Buffalo net on a breakaway and tucked one past Fujimagari to make it 2-1 Whitecaps. Richards gave the Whitecaps a two-goal lead at 8:38 of the second on an oddball goal. Richards threw a puck on net from the far corner that struck Fujimagari's pad and caromed in behind her.

The Beauts pulled within one before the second period came to a close. A large rebound off an Iveta Klimášová slap shot bounced out into the high slot. Becki Bowering pounced on the loose puck and fired it into the top corner of the net over the stick of Leveille. The goal was Bowering's first in the NWHL.

Minnesota's offense opened up in the third period with goals from Meaghan Pezon, Nicole Schammel, Thunstrom, Lisa Martinson, and Sydney Baldwin. The frustrated Beauts could do little against the offensive onslaught that resulted in five consecutive goals in the final period of the game for the reigning Isobel Cup champions.

"Tomorrow we've got to build off of what we produced tonight," said Richards. "Keep our feet moving, and getting pucks to the net."

While the score may have been lopsided, the Beauts' Fujimagari made some phenomenal saves off of a barrage of shots. For the fourth time this season she faced at least 40 shots, and some of her saves were of the head-shaking variety.

"I think what it came down to was just competing for every save," said Fujimagari. "Giving the team energy to gain some momentum. We need to stick to our game plan. We need to continue to believe in ourselves, and play as a tight unit."

The two squads will face each other again tomorrow at TRIA Rink at 1:00PM CST. Tickets are available at whitecaps.nwhl.zone/tickets and the game will be streaming live and free on the NWHL on Twitch.

Photo Credit: Tom Morris