Beginning June 1, NWHL teams can re-sign players from their 2017-18 roster and their draft picks. Additionally, for those players who have completed their college eligibility and want to continue their hockey careers, NWHL Free Agency provides the best opportunity to continue playing at the highest level of professional women’s hockey. The fourth season of the NWHL will begin in October as the Metropolitan Riveters defend their Isobel Cup championship, and with the addition of a fifth team – the Minnesota Whitecaps – this will be the most competitive season yet.
My colleague Dan Rice will keep THW readers up-to-date on Metropolitan and Connecticut’s signings throughout the summer, while I post updates on Buffalo and Boston. Together we will be keeping readers informed of all of Minnesota’s signings.
After basically stunning the women’s hockey world by adding three PyeongChang Olympians – two of whom are goalies – and by snatching up a sniper who was a former rival, the Buffalo Beauts have done quite well in recapturing the essence of what has made them so successful the past two NWHL seasons. While there are still plenty of new faces, Beauts GM Nik Fattey has been bringing back a sizable number of veterans – a portion of whom led the team to capturing the 2017 Isobel Cup.
On Aug. 1, 2018 word was released that Buffalo had re-signed three more returning veterans to the team – defenders Sarah Casorso and Jordyn Burns, and forward Taylor Accursi. Each of these players were integral in Buffalo’s success this past season. Casorso’s and Burns’ value to the team stems back to the 2016-17 season when they helped the Beauts win the Cup.
— NWHL (@NWHL) August 1, 2018
GM Fattey shared the following in a Beauts release to the media:
“We are excited to bring back three important players from last year’s high-achieving team. All three work hard, are great teammates and contributed to our 11-game winning streak last season.”
THW takes a closer look at each of the three signings and what they mean to Buffalo.
Casorso’s first NWHL goal was certainly a memorable one. Having gone goalless throughout both the regular season and playoffs of 2016-17, followed by no tallies during the regular season of 2017-18, she got off the schneid when it mattered most. Casorso’s first goal came in overtime and sent the Buffalo faithful home in ecstasy as she eliminated the Boston Pride in this past season’s Isobel Cup semis between the two teams. Her shot eluded Pride goalie Brittany Ott at 1:21 of OT to win the Beauts the game and send them to the Cup final for the third straight season.
“Maddie (Elia) gave me a perfect pass,” Casorso told THW at the time. “I knew the shot was there, and all year I’ve been hitting posts and crossbars. When I heard that ding I thought it went to the corner. It wasn’t until I looked at (Colleen) Murphy and she was cellying, I was like ‘did that go in?’. Then it hit me a couple seconds too late. Just shocked really.”
The important thing to note however is that even though that was her first NWHL goal, she has consistently been one of Buffalo’s best offensive-defenders through her previous two seasons in the league. Through Casorso’s 31 regular season games between the two seasons she has compiled 16 assists. Her nine assists during the 2017-18 season tied her with Maddie Elia for the second most of all skaters on the squad, and were the most of any Beauts defender.
In addition to offense, the 5-foot-7 Casorso can play a very robust style as well. She is physical – even ornery – and does not back down from anybody. Saying all that, Casorso is as nice as can be off the ice. An excellent blend of player to have on the roster.
Burns may very well be the most underrated player in the NWHL. Quieter and out of the limelight, Burns is as steady of a defender that you shall ever find – in any league. Her 14 blocked shots in 15 regular season games for Buffalo this past season tied her with captain Corinne Buie for the second most on the team. They also placed Burns within the league’s top-10 players for that category as well.
Like Casorso, Burns was a member of the Beauts 2017 Cup-winning team. However, the difference between the two blueliners is that Burns more so functions as a stay-at-home defender. Through 30 career regular season games she has compiled four assists. For the 2017-18 season Burns only had three shots on goal during the regular season.
Any lack of offense stems simply from the fact that Burns’ forte is defense. This fact does not get overlooked by everybody either. In her second season, Burns was named an NWHL All-Star for the first time and attended the 2018 All-Star Game in Minnesota. Though she may not receive some of the glitz and glamour that often accompanies scorers, her defensive skills are deeply respected. Burns is the type of player that keeps Buffalo goalies from even facing shots in the first place.
Accursi is the only one of these three most recent signings to have been a rookie last year, and she was brilliant. There were many times that she demonstrated a bit of wizardry with a puck. Through her first three NWHL games, she had scored five goals right off the bat. By the time her first professional season had ended, Accursi had amassed six goals and five assists for 11 points in 15 games. She was one of six Beauts to reach double digits in points during the 2017-18 season.
Speaking along the lines of her “magical” skills, Accursi had the best shooting percentage (17.1%) of the 16 Buffalo skaters to have played in at least eight games. Only six players in the league had a better number (again, of those to have played at least eight games).
Accursi is very deceptive in how she controls a puck. She has the uncanny ability to keep the disc in spots where you just can’t quite reach it. While her goal scoring may have dropped off through the second half of her rookie season, Accursi possesses certain skills on the ice that no one else seems to have. Look for her to score at least 10 points for a second straight year.
The Beauts have made the most signings of the five NWHL teams thus far. They are just about filled up. Here is a look at how their roster is currently shaping out as of Aug. 1:
Goalie: Nicole Hensley, Julia DiTondo, Shannon Szabados.
Defense: Lisa Chesson, Savannah Harmon, Jacquie Greco, Sarah Edney, Jordyn Burns, Sarah Casorso.
Forward: Hayley Scamurra, Corinne Buie, Maddie Elia, Dani Cameranesi, Annika Zalewski, Julianna Iafallo, Kelly Babstock, Jordan Juron, Emily Janiga, Taylor Accursi.