Beauts Nearly Sweep 2019 NWHL Awards

The Buffalo Beauts have taken home a sizable chunk of 2019’s NWHL hardware. The remaining three award winners for the league’s Goaltender of the Year, Defender of the Year, and Most Valuable Player were announced on Mar. 25, 2019. The Beauts grabbed all three.

Additionally, Buffalo players were the recipients of the NWHL Players Association’s Player of the Year Award and the league’s Foundation Award. The only awards that a Beaut did not take home were Newcomer of the Year, the Fans’ Three Stars of the Season, and the Denna Laing Award.

THW takes a look at the five trophies that Buffalo players did come away with at the close of the 2018-19 NWHL season.

NWHL Foundation Award: Kelly Babstock

The NWHL Foundation Award is given annually to the player most actively applying the core values of hockey to her community, as well as growing and improving hockey culture. One player is selected for this award from each of the five NWHL teams, so a Beaut was automatically guaranteed to receive this award.

Kelly Babstock Buffalo Beauts
In her first season as a Beaut, original NWHLer Kelly Babstock was Buffalo’s recipient of the league’s Foundation Award (Photo Credit: Pat McCarthy).

Regardless, the Foundation Award is one of the most important honors that the NWHL distributes. The award and the players who receive it exemplify the core mission and goals of the league.

Buffalo’s recipient this season was veteran player Kelly Babstock. One of the few remaining original NWHLers, she played her first season with Buffalo after three with the Connecticut Whale. Babstock played in all 16 regular season games for Buffalo, and scored four goals and six assists. Her 52 shots on goal tied her for second most on the Beauts.

Babstock’s upbeat personality and overall kindness to others were key contributors in her being selected for this honor. Few people become happier for the success of others than what “Babs” does.

NWHLPA Player of the Year Award: Hayley Scamurra

Being esteemed by one’s own colleagues, and being recognized as the best among teammates and opponents alike, is one of the finers honors that there is in life – especially in sports.

Members of the NWHL’s Players Association selected Beauts forward Hayley Scamurra as the top player in the league among all of her peers.
This marks the first time that the NWHL has honored this particular award, and the award is very fitting for this particular Beaut.

Hayley Scamurra Buffalo Beauts
Buffalo’s Hayley Scamurra battles with Connecticut’s Colleen Murphy on Dec. 8, 2018 (Photo Credit: Pat McCarthy).

Not only did Scamurra lead the entire league in scoring – 10 goals and 10 assists in 16 games – she was the only player in the NWHL to record double digits in goals, assists and points. Coinciding with her dominance offensively, her 73 shots on goal were the second highest in the league – an average of well more than four shots a game.

Upon being named the winner of this award, Scamurra told the NWHL:

“This has been such a memorable year for me and to be honored with this award means so much. My Beauts family pushed me to get better every day and my teammates made such a personal impact this season. I want to thank them all, especially my line mates for making this such a fun season.”

Goaltender of the Year Award: Shannon Szabados

Shannon Szabados is widely considered the greatest goaltender in women’s hockey history. Therefore, it ended up being no real surprise that in her first NWHL season she finished the campaign with the honor of being named the league’s Best Goaltender.

Sharing Buffalo’s goaltending duties with fellow Olympian Nicole Hensley and third-string goalie Julia DiTondo, Szabados was simply phenomenal all season long. Her regular season record amounted to 6-3-1. Meanwhile, Szabados’ 1.49 goals-against average and her .934 save percentage are quite staggering. Szabados allowed a mere 15 goals in her 10 games played and whitewashed the opposition twice for two shutouts.

Shannon Szabados Buffalo Beauts
Beauts goalie Shannon Szabados was named Goaltender of the Year in her first NWHL season (Photo Credit: Pat McCarthy).

“I am honored to be named the NWHL Goaltender of the Year,” Szabados said in the league’s announcement regarding her award. “I want to thank the league, my teammates, the entire Buffalo Beauts organization and the fanbase for making this an unforgettable season.”

Szabados will turn 33 years old in August. With two Olympic gold medals and one Olympic silver, the incentive is certainly there to add an Isobel Cup onto her résumé. With such a remarkable performance in 2018-19, let us hope that Szabados is back for 2019-20.

Defender of the Year Award: Blake Bolden

After a season in Switzerland, defender Blake Bolden returned to the NWHL to have her finest offensive season yet.

Another player from the league’s inaugural season, Bolden had won the Isobel Cup in 2015-16 with the Boston Pride. Between her collegiate career with Boston College, her time in the CWHL with the Boston (now Worcester) Blades, and her time with the Pride, Bolden spent eight seasons playing in Massachusetts. This made it somewhat surprising when the Beauts announced her signing on Aug. 15, 2018.

Bolden quickly established herself as Buffalo’s top blueliner, which eventually translated to her being recognized as the best in the entire league for that position. Playing in all 16 regular season games for Buffalo, she promptly tallied one goal and added 12 assists for 13 points. The assist and point totals were both career highs for Bolden.

Blake Bolden Buffalo Beauts
Buffalo Beauts defender Blake Bolden set career highs of 12 assists and 13 points during the 2018-19 NWHL regular season (Photo Credit: Pat McCarthy).

Bolden’s 12 assists were the highest among all NWHL defenders, and tied for second most for all skaters. Additionally, her 13 points tied her with Minnesota Whitecaps’ defender Amanda Boulier (5G, 8A) for most among all blueliners. Likewise, her 47 shots on goal were the highest for all NWHL defenders as well.

“I am so happy to be named the NWHL Defender of the Year,” said Bolden. “It was so great to be part of the Beauts family this year and to work with my D partner Pfalzy (Emily Pfalzer). As the season went on, we grew so much as a team. I would not have earned this honor without all of my teammates helping to raise my game.”

MVP Award: Maddie Elia

No player in the NWHL plays with more tenacity and ferocity than Maddie Elia. The season that she compiled in 2018-19 is very much indicative of her ability to be a difference maker for Buffalo. Elia is one of those very few players who can sway the outcome of a game. Not only is she the recipient of the NWHL’s Most Valuable Player Award, but she is arguably the best all-around player in women’s hockey.

“I am so excited to be named the MVP of this NWHL season,” Elia said in an NWHL release. “My teammates are so important to me and obviously the hard work of our entire team is the reason for any success that I experienced. It was a great step forward for myself personally and I feel that the work I put in to round out my game worked out in a positive way.”

Maddie Elia
Maddie Elia was named the NWHL’s Most Valuable Player for the 2018-19 season. (Photo Credit: Matthew Raney)

Elia led the entire league in goals scored with 12 tallies in 16 games. Converting on 23.1% of her shots, her shooting percentage was tied for for best in the league among all shooters to have played at least 10 games. Factor in Elia’s seven assists, and her 19 total points tied her for second most in the league alongside Minnesota’s Jonna Curtis.

Do not be surprised if Elia eventually becomes a perennial winner of the MVP Award – she has the skill set and the drive to make that happen.