Lenka Čurmová has been a difference maker for the Buffalo Beauts since training camp. She added an exclamation point to that notion in her very first NWHL regular season game.
The 5-foot-8 Slovakian defender had a number of noteworthy firsts in the Beauts 3-1 victory over the Connecticut Whale on Oct. 5, 2019. Čurmová opened the scoring with a goal on the power play at 4:29 of the first period. While MJ Pelletier and Corinne Buie picked up the assists, the goal itself was the first of the Beauts 2019-20 season, and more importantly, the first goal by a Slovakian player in NWHL history.
“It’s incredible – I’m not sure if I fully get it right now,” Čurmová said when asked about the historical significance from netting her first. “It’s unbelievable. It’s something that is in the history books – it’s amazing. I’m super happy about it to be the first player to score from Slovakia.”
“Was It Was Me Who Scored?”
Initially Čurmová wasn’t certain that she was the Beaut who scored. With Buffalo having the player-advantage, the team had the Whale strongly hemmed in. Fellow Beaut Taylor Accursi created a frenzied screen in front of Connecticut goalie Sonjia Shelly. Buffalo’s Becki Bowering would storm the net too as Čurmová flung a far wrister from the point. Lo and behold, it went in past Shelly and ended up in the back of the twine.
“The first thought I had was, ‘Was it was me who scored?’,” Čurmová laughed, while still seeming somewhat surprised. “I thought that one of our forwards touched the puck because there was a really good screen in front of the goalie. That was a huge part of this goal – my forwards did an excellent job. I wasn’t sure if it was me, but I saw that the puck was in the net. That was the most important thing. I was just happy that we scored a goal.”
Čurmová would end up putting two shots on goal by game’s end, perform a ton of close checking in the Beauts end to keep the Whale at bay, and finished as a plus-1. Such a showing would see her become the first VEDA NWHL Player of the Week for the 2019-20 season – yet another first.
Love and Appreciation From Family and Friends
Some friends and family made the trip to Connecticut to see Čurmová’s first NWHL game. Plenty more were back home watching in Slovakia. While they have become accustomed to seeing her hockey successes, they are very proud of Čurmová nonetheless.
“Obviously they are happy,” she smiled “When I spoke to my father, he was very proud of me. Also my mom and my whole family. They texted me, and said in their messages how happy they are for me. ‘Congratulations!’, things like that. It is nice to know that your family is proud of you.”
Čurmová has competed for the Slovakian Women’s National Team since she was 15 years old. She has competed at five IIHF Women’s World Championships and one Olympic qualification tournament. Čurmová served as Slovakia’s team captain for the 2018 Women’s Division IA tournament in Vaujany, France. Her Beauts teammate Iveta Klimášová was an alternate captain on that same squad.
The NWHL Life in Buffalo
The 2019-20 Buffalo Beauts are quickly becoming a tightly knit group. They are a squad that truly cares for each other and works for one another. The warm energy between them is infectious and quickly noticed. Čurmová certainly can sense it herself.
The Beauts defense corps is relatively small in numbers. Only five blueliners on the team are considered natural defenders – Čurmová, Pelletier, Richelle Skarbowski, Meg Delay and Ana Orzechowski. Ashley Birdsall has primarily played defense throughout training camp and the start of the regular season, but is listed as a forward-defender. Sara Bustad has the same positional nomenclature but has been kept up front.
“I feel like this atmosphere here is very positive,” Čurmová stated, “and the people give you much more energy. That’s the most important thing. I can feel the energy here in the ice rink. I feel that people here really appreciate that I am a player in the NWHL. When I’m here with the Buffalo Beauts, I can feel the difference. I feel the support from the staff, from the team, from everybody.”
For Čurmová and company, it is one step at time. While she may have played a historic first NWHL game, she has at least 23 more games to go this season. That does not include any postseason games the Beauts would play in a potential Cup-run come playoff time. Buffalo is the only team in NWHL history to make it to the Isobel Cup Final in each of the league’s first four seasons.
“Of course the Isobel Cup is the main goal,” Čurmová explained. “But I would say that the best thing is to go game by game, and shift by shift. Go step by step. The long term goal would be the Isobel Cup for sure. I’m really trying to focus on each game individually. Enjoy the game – that’s the most important thing. Play as hard as I can.”