There are a lot of joyous youngsters around Western New York’s hockey rinks right now. Word was released on Aug. 8, 2019 that the Buffalo Beauts had brought back a fan favorite in goaltender Kelsey Neumann, the 2016-17 winner of the NWHL’s Foundation Award.
“We are happy to have Kelsey back with the Beauts,” said Beauts GM Mandy Cronin in the press release for the signing, “She plays an important role not only within our team and organization, but also in the Buffalo community.”
Back on Jun. 6, THW suggested that Neumann was a player that Cronin should acquire for the team’s 2019-20 roster. Not to give the appearance of being prophetic, adding the beloved goalie was simply a no-brainer and a way to keep Beauts fans feeling good about the team. It just made sense for all parties involved.
Neumann’s Previous Go-Round for Buffalo
Neumann was previously a goaltender for the Beauts for two seasons, including the team’s 2016-17 Isobel Cup-winning squad. She was limited to mainly a third-string role that season, namely due to the stellar goaltending of Brianne McLaughlin and Amanda Leveille who were ahead of her in the depth chart.
Ironically, while she did not see any regular season action, she still was Buffalo’s recipient of the Foundation Award. The award is given annually to one player from each of the league’s teams. It is bestowed upon the individual who most actively applies the core values of hockey to her community. Neumann was the obvious choice, stemming especially from her coaching mentorship of young female athletes and her overall good-naturedness towards children.
Even as she attended the Beauts’ recent 2019 Free Agent Camp on Jul. 27 and Jul. 28 at the NorthTown Center, she was mobbed by youngsters on both days whenever she was not on the ice. Kids adore her because she is genuine and they know that she is invested in them.
Neumann was also with the Beauts for the 2017-18 season. This time she handled most of the backup duties for Leveille, while newcomer Julia DiTondo was oftentimes tertiary. Neumann would see her very first regular season action, albeit briefly, during the final 32 seconds of a Beauts 4-1 victory on the road in Connecticut – the last game of the regular season.
Come playoff time, Neumann would be on the bench during Buffalo’s opportunity to defend the Isobel Cup in New Jersey. Facing the Metropolitan Riveters in the 2017-18 Isobel Cup Final, the Beauts fell just short and relinquished the crown by a 1-0 score.
Back for a Larger Role in the Goal Crease
It is not an exaggeration to state that numerous youngsters were disappointed and confused when Neumann was not re-signed for the 2018-19 edition of the Beauts. She was one of a handful of players whom the Beauts parted ways with at the time, that also seemed to deplete the team’s character.
But that was then and this is now. While Neumann is a veteran Beaut, she is joining a very new team. New GM, new head coach, new arena, and likely two dozen new players that have never worn “Beauts blue” before.
It is also a new opportunity for Neumann.
With the NWHL schedule now increased from 16 games to 24, she will most likely see her first true test of NWHL action. The Beauts also have a very good goaltender in Mariah Fujimagari, and there is strong possibility that the former Maine Black Bear could be the starter. That being said, it is doubtful that any goaltender will suit up for all 24 games.
The increased number of games will be a bit of a balancing act for all of the league’s players. A busier schedule will mean that health, safety, and off-ice commitments will need to be taken more into consideration than ever before. For the Beauts, it will also mean that Neumann is going to need to win them some games.
She is certainly ready and raring to go for such a challenge.
“I’m looking forward to working with GM Mandy Cronin, Coach Pete Perram, and my teammates in our quest to bring the Isobel Cup back to Buffalo,” Neumann stated. “I am extremely excited for the opportunity to rejoin the Buffalo Beauts, be part of the NWHL again, and continue to promote the growth of women’s hockey.”
As of Aug. 8, here is how the Beauts’ roster currently looks:
Goaltender: Mariah Fujimagari, Kelsey Neumann.
Defender: Meg Delay, Marie-Jo Pelletier.
Forward: Corinne Buie, Brooke Stacey, Kim Brown, Becki Bowering, Cassidy MacPherson, Emma Ruggiero.
Beginning May 15, NWHL teams can re-sign players from their 2018-19 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 fifth season of the NWHL will begin in October as the Minnesota Whitecaps look to defend their Isobel Cup championship.
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.