The Buffalo Beauts (9-4-0) are sending a notice to the rest of the NWHL teams. They can beat you in a high scoring game, their 45 goals are only two behind the league leaders in Minnesota (the Whitecaps have played one more game). And they can also beat you in a low scoring, grind it out game as they did in their first trip back to New Jersey since losing 1-0 in the 2018 Isobel Cup Final. But this is 2019 and the Beauts have some new faces who are making a difference. “This win was good for our team and should give us a little bit of momentum,” said Buffalo winger Taylor Accursi. “I know we have a couple of weeks off (coming up), but it’s always good to win on the road. They definitely gave us a hard time today.”
Goaltender Nicole Hensley stopped 22 of the 24 shots she faced from the Metropolitan Riveters (3-10-0) in the 3-2 win and fellow rookie forward Julianna Iafallo had a goal and an assist, leading Buffalo to their fifth straight victory heading into the All-Star Break. Iafallo set up rookie defender Savannah Harmon for a power-play goal near the midway point of the second period and that became the eventual game-winning goal.
The Blonde Bomber Strikes Again
Accursi opened the scoring in the game at 17:30 of the first period when she scored on a wraparound for her second goal of the season late in the first period. “I just saw the puck was free in the corner, I grabbed it, took the ice and I just wrapped it around and it went in,” said Accursi recalling the play. Up until that point Katie Fitzgerald had been perfect, seemingly stabilizing the what had been an interesting goaltending situation the past few weeks in the Riveters’ crease. “It hit my stick and then it was on the goal line,” Fitzgerald said. “I wasn’t 100% sure it was there, but I didn’t want to kick it in and tried to get behind it. Just one of those tough goals I wish I could have back and redo it.”
The Riveters were able to shut down the Beauts’ top trio of Hayley Scamurra-Maddie Elia-Dani Cameranesi, but Buffalo was also able to silence their top players. With Madison Packer serving a one-game suspension, Rebecca Morse drew into the lineup and the New Jersey-native responded with her first goal of the season 1:59 into period 2 to tie the game. “It’s definitely nice to come back in the lineup and get a goal; get my confidence up,” said Morse. “It was a fun game to be in even though we didn’t get the result that we wanted. I’m just happy to be back in the lineup and hopefully, I can continue to be until the end of the season.”
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Fellow New Jersey native Alexa Aramburu finished with two primary assists for the Rivs, picking up her second on Kristin Lewicki’s first goal as a Riveter; the goal came 37 seconds after Harmon’s goal boosted Buffalo’s lead to 3-1. “It’s definitely nice to get something on the scoresheet, but honestly every time I get the puck on the breakout I look for that winger coming across, or anybody who is breaking out of the zone,” said Aramburu. “We had a game against Buffalo under our belts, so we kind of know their game plan now, what they like to do,” she said of the loss which was a lot closer than the last matchup (5-1 Beauts’ win) between the two rivals. “We kept our heads down and kept grinding, it’s bound to break for us once, right? We just kept working hard and got after it.”
Brick Wall Fitzy
Fitzgerald, the 2018 playoff MVP, looked like her old self again and finished the game with 25 saves, turning aside several point-blank chances in the third period against the potent Buffalo offense. “It felt good. It’s been a while, our team was really good the crowd made it a great atmosphere here today. The team helped me out when I needed it and I just tried to be there for them again like I had been previously,” said Fitzgerald afterward.
“I think I had gotten a bit rigid, was thinking too much,” she added, “so (today) I just tried to be loose, have fun with it, enjoy it, and not think about it. Just be in the moment. Just react to pucks instead of over anticipate and all that kind of stuff. That’s what I’ve been trying to work on in practice these past few weeks.”
Game Notes: Despite being held scoreless Elia and Scamurra lead the NWHL in points with 18 each as we enter the All-Star Break. Iafallo became the fourth Beauts player to hit at least ten points (5g-5a), joining Elia, Scamurra, and Cameranesi (14). Buffalo’s penalty kill was 4-for-4, including a huge kill late in the third period. Scamurra led all players with four shots on goal, Jenny Ryan and Alexa Gruschow led the Riveters with three apiece. The Beauts won an astounding 31 of 40 face-offs on the afternoon, led by Kelly Babstock (10-of-12). Lewicki’s first goal as a Riveter came against her former team – she had five in her rookie season for Buffalo.
3 Stars of the Game:
1) Julianna Iafallo (Buffalo): goal (5), assist (5)
2) Savannah Harmon (Buffalo): pp/gw goal (3)
3) Alexa Aramburu (Riveters): 2 assists (3)
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.