As of Aug. 26, 2019, the Buffalo Beauts have signed 15 different players to their 2019-20 roster. Considering that previous seasons of NWHL play have seen roster sizes typically between 21 and 25 players, the Beauts are more than halfway full.
Buffalo has already signed two of its native daughters in Emma Ruggiero and Maddie Norton. Ruggiero – who calls the “Queen City” suburb of Amherst her stomping grounds – captained her 2018-19 Buffalo State College Bengals in her final season, and was the team’s top scorer. Norton graduated from the University at Buffalo earlier this spring as well, and is the finest scorer in Lady Ice Bulls’ history. Both will now make their professional hockey debuts as Beauts.
But some may be surprised to know that there are still plenty more Buffaloanians who recently wrapped up their NCAA playing careers. Each could be a viable option in order for the Beauts to fill their roster with, and get a finalized squad established.
These would be primarily depth players, but the drive to capitalize upon opportunity is indeed there and very real. For many of the players we will mention, this could very well be their shot at the professional level.
Where the Beauts Still Need to Add
The openings on Buffalo’s roster that still need to be filled are rather obvious.
One spot undoubtedly needs to be a goaltender. While there has not been a written rule per se, the NWHL standard has most often been three goalies on a team. Injuries, illness and off-ice commitments certainly make a three-goalie roster rather imperative, but the need is even more pronounced for 2019-20 because of the schedule now increased from 16 to 24 games.
The Beauts have two goaltenders inked in Mariah Fujimagari and Kelsey Neumann, but they do need that third – for safety sake, if nothing else.
The team also needs to round out their defense corps. While they have five players capable of playing the position, only three are natural blueliners. Iveta Klimášová is listed as a defender, but has been playing forward in her more recent seasons with the Slovakian Women’s National Team and in her homeland. Ashley Birdsall is listed as a defender-forward, but seems more so slated for the front.
That leaves just Meg Delay, MJ Pelletier, and Lenka Čurmová to be at the rear. Meaning, the Beauts should look to sign three (give or take) defenders before the season gets underway.
Spritz in a few more forwards, and suddenly you have a full roster.
NCAA WNYers Abound
THW has come up with a list 10 players from the Western New York area that the Beauts should consider signing. While it is unlikely that all 10 will be signed or that the remaining openings will all be filled by only Buffalo natives, at least Beauts General Manager Mandy Cronin and head coach Pete Perram have a multitude of options.
Surprises happen each and every NWHL season, and one or more of these players could step up unexpectedly to become a real gamer.
Here in random order are Buffalonians that could potentially become Beauts.
#10 Grace Page (forward), SUNY Canton
Grace Page is a 5-foot tall forward that played NCAA Division III hockey for the SUNY Canton Kangaroos. A native of nearby Hamburg, NY, Page was a team captain for the Roos during the recent 2018-19 season – her final season at Canton. She also finished second on the team in shooting percentage at 11.8% off of a pair of goals in 23 games.
Page is a product of the Buffalo Regals youth hockey program, and turned out four solid seasons for the Roos. Her finest season offensively came during her 2017-18 junior campaign. Page set career highs for games played (26), assists (four), points (seven) and equaled her top mark in goals with three.
In total, she generated nine goals and nine assists in 97 career NCAA games. Page remained a decent shot-blocker through all four of her seasons at Canton, finishing with nearly 30 in her career. Her most came as a sophomore when she blocked 13 in 25 games. Page also took over 200 face-offs within her time as a Roo.
This would make a good utility signing for Buffalo. Page could fill more of fourth-line role, but her speed and work-ethic could open doors to more ice-time beyond that and specialty teams as well.
#9 Ana Orzechowski (defense), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
Ana Orzechowski is a name we mentioned before in other NWHL discussions, but it bears repeating. We could see her fitting in on the Beauts as a depth defender, but one who could do well in a shutdown mode.
Additionally, Orzechowski has some experience playing in Ontario’s Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) – a league often regarded as the highest level of junior women’s ice hockey in the province. There she played for the Burlington Barracudas and was teammates with current Beauts Becki Bowering and Meg Delay.
This 23-year-old defender is very much a stay-at-home blueliner. A Tonawanda native, Orzechowski played 105 games for RPI. In all of those games, the only point she ever generated was an assist against the Maine Black Bears on Sept. 24, 2016 at the beginning of her sophomore season (2016-17).
Orzechowski is a right-handed shot and stands at 5-foot-6. Though not overly tall, she is solidly built and has size to her. At the close of her 105 NCAA games she had accumulated 16 penalty minutes. In addition to her career at RPI, she is a former New York State Champion with Kenmore East High School in 2014-15, and a 2015 State Champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 19U team.
#8 Jordan Roetzer (forward), William Smith College
Jordan Roetzer began her NCAA career at Manhattanville College, but finished her final three years playing for the William Smith College Herons. A Williamsville, NY native, she stands 5-foot-5 and has a right-handed shot. Roetzer was also an accomplished field hockey and softball player during her time at Williamsville East High School.
In her freshman season for Manhattanville, she proceeded to lead the team in scoring with eight goals, six assists and 14 points in 26 games. In a Jan. 30, 2016 drubbing of Nichols College by a 9-0 score, Roetzer tallied two goals and three assists all in one game.
After making the jump over to William Smith, she continued to be a dangerous scorer. She finished second in scoring for the Herons in her first season with the school (2016-17) and was nearly a point-per-game player in her senior campaign. The recent 2018-19 season saw her go 7-16-23 in 28 games for William Smith.
By the time Roetzer graduated earlier this spring, she had played in 105 NCAA games between the two schools. In the process, she compiled 24 goals, 35 assists and 59 points in her career.
#7 Ellis Smith (defense), Manhattanville College
Ellis Smith is a bullet-shooting defender who is fresh off of four solid seasons for Manhattanville College. This Buffalo native played her junior hockey for the Niagara Junior Purple Eagles and her high school years with the prestigious Nichols School. Smith is a 5-foot-7, left-handed defender who can unload from the point. She participated in five national championships while with Nichols, earning silver once and bronze twice.
She played 94 games in her NCAA career for the Valiants, but with rather modest point totals. Smith’s best season offensively was her senior season (2018-19) when she scored the lone NCAA goal of her career and tacked on five assists in 27 games. When all was said and done, she completed her Manhattanville career with the lone goal and a total of 18 assists.
But just because Smith did not score often herself does not mean that she did not generate opportunities for others by letting pucks fly. She totaled 104 shots across those same 94 career games. Smith once put 10 shots on goal in a single game when the Valiants played King’s College in a Nov. 17, 2018 game.
She has a physical side too. Smith blocked 37 shots in the aforementioned 27 games. Additionally, her penalty minutes totals went up as her career went along. Finishing with 58 PIMs in her career, Smith earned 34 of them in her senior season alone.
#6 Mikaela Ditonto (goalie), SUNY Oswego
5-foot-6 goalie Mikaela Ditonto is from Orchard Park, NY – the home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Ditonto saw a limited amount of playing time for the Oswego Lakers, but earned multiple accolades amid stellar performances in her recent 2018-19 senior season.
In her four seasons for Oswego, Ditonto was limited to primarily a third-string role on the team. Her collegiate career consisted of four appearances in total, with various results. Ditonto’s final career record was 1-1-0, while putting up a .882 save percentage and a 4.58 goals-against average. Certainly not the most desirable numbers for a goalie, but she indeed matured in her game as her NCAA career went along.
Ditonto’s finest level of play came during her last campaign. While seeing just two appearances, she made the most of her opportunities by stopping 32 of the 33 shots she faced in 62:58 minutes of action. Facing Plymouth State and Potsdam amid that time Ditonto went 1-0-0 and finished the season with a whopping .970 SV% and a 0.95 GAA.
The Jan. 17, 2019 2-1 victory over Plymouth State saw her be named Oswego State Female Athlete of the Week and NEWHL Goalie of the Week. Ditonto possesses the character and mindset needed to fulfill a tertiary goalie role. There is very little glitz and glamour associated with such a position, but being a good teammate is a must. Ditonto could be that type of teammate for the Beauts.
#5 Ashley Songin (forward), SUNY Plattsburgh
Ashley Songin scored double digits in points in all four of her seasons with Plattsburgh State. The Springville, NY native is another Nichols School alum just like Ellis Smith. Once she began her collegiate career, Songin became one of the Cardinals most reliable scorers in recent history.
Songin was at her finest during her 2016-17 sophomore season at Plattsburgh. Playing in 30 games, she scored eight goals, 13 assists and 21 points – those were career bests in all three offensive categories.
Songin finished her NCAA career having scored 25 goals and 36 assists for 61 points in 117 games. She was a decent power play contributor, as nine of her 25 goals came with the player advantage. From her sophomore season through her senior one, Songin scored a pair of game-winning goals each season.
Such reliability for her team would see Songin named an alternate captain in her final season. It is also interesting to note that she and current Beauts defender Meg Delay were teammates for the 2015-16 edition of the Cardinals.
#4 Madeline Kromer (defense), Buffalo State College
The Beauts already have one Buffalo State College alum in Ruggiero, but could potentially add a few more. One would be defender Madeline Kromer. The 5-foot-3 blueliner is a right-handed shot and is from Angola, NY.
Not necessarily a big scorer from the Bengals’ back end, Kromer was nonetheless gritty and physical in each of her four seasons. Three times she surpassed 20 penalty minutes in a season, and twice averaged more than a PIM per game. Having played 89 total games, Kromer compiled 92 PIMs in that time.
While not to be considered an offensive-defender, that does not mean that Kromer did not contribute on the score sheet. Her career totals came to five goals, 16 assists and 21 points in said 89 games. The finest offensive season of her career was 2016-17 when she had a pair of goals and six helpers for a career-high eight points.
Much like her rough and tumble play, Kromer is an accomplished shot-blocker too. In her senior season alone she put herself in front of vulcanized rubber 23 times in 24 games. Kromer also served as an alternate captain to Ruggiero’s captaincy for the Bengals, and that should not be overlooked when the Beauts look to find the right personalities that fit with one another on their roster.
#3 Megan Reukauf (defense), Buffalo State College
Then there is the other half of that equation. Much like Kromer, Buff State defender Megan Reukauf was an alternate captain for the Bengals during the 2018-19 season. At 5-foot-4, she is of similar size and build when compared to her fellow Bengals blueliner, but is more stay-at-home focused between the two.
Reukauf is from the Buffalo suburb of Depew and player her youth hockey for the Buffalo Regals. A right-handed shot, her offensive numbers were rather modest during her NCAA career. The lone goal she scored came during her freshman season of 2015-16, and was scored against Potsdam. Reukauf would however earn 18 assists in her 94-game career.
Despite the single tally, Reukauf will in fact shoot and shoot readily when she is on the ice. She fired pucks on net 141 times in her career, with a high of 53 shots in only 21 games this past season. Reukauf only had one game during the 2018-19 season when she did not register a shot on goal.
Should they be signed, it would be interesting for the Beauts to try pairing Reukauf and Kromer with one another, and see what dividends familiarity can pay.
#2 Pippy Gerace (forward), Cornell University
Pippy Gerace is the furthest we will extend our list of players from the Buffalo area. Her hometown of Jamestown, NY is about an hour and a half away from Buffalo’s downtown area but has long been included within discussions of the “City of Good Neighbors”, particularly when it comes to sports and music.
Gerace is a 5-foot-2 spitfire forward who assembled four hardworking seasons for the Big Red. The best thing about her is that she has a penchant for scoring game-winning goals, even though she is not a prolific scorer. Gerace scored 21 goals in her 124 NCAA games for Cornell, but eight of those decided the game.
The lone goal of her junior season in 2017-18 was an unassisted game-winner over Princeton on Nov. 14, 2017. Additionally, in Gerace’s other seasons she was a fairly accurate shooter. The 15.3% shooting accuracy she put forth during her senior season was the best percentage on the team. That came from Gerace scoring nine goals from 59 shots.
Prior to arriving at Cornell, Gerace spent half of the 2014-15 season playing for the PWHL’s Etobicoke Dolphins, and could be a player that the Beauts’ Perram already has some familiarity with.
#1 Rachel Grampp (defense), Elmira College
Rachel Grampp is arguably the best all-around athlete that we are mentioning in this mix. A accomplished soccer player and lacrosse player, she played her NCAA hockey as a defender for Elmira. A native of Williamsville, NY (the Northtown Center is essentially in her own backyard), she played for the Soaring Eagles from 2014-15 through the 2017-18 season.
Standing at 5-foot-8, Grampp’s numbers improved in almost every season. Never playing less than 23 games in a season for Elmira, she also never scored less than three goals in a campaign. Her career best came in 2017-18 when set highs in all offensive categories – four goals, 13 assists and 17 points in 26 games.
By the time that she wrapped up her collegiate career, Grampp had accumulated 13 goals, 33 assists and 46 points in 102 career games. She did a bit of everything throughout her career. Grampp blocked 82 shots across her four seasons, and once blocked five shots in one game alone on Feb. 16, 2018 against Neumann University. She took a lot of shots of her own too, especially for a defender – 140 total.
Grampp spent the 2018-19 season as an assistant coach for the SUNY Canton Roos. Depending on what her plans are for 2019-20, she might not be able to play professionally at all. That being said, Grampp is a very solid player, and it would be worth at least posing the question to see if she would like to play.