Buffalo Beauts rookie forward Maddie Norton is looking to make the most of her opportunities this NWHL season. Used sparingly throughout Buffalo’s first 18 games, Norton made her first back-to-back appearances of 2019-20 when the team was on the road in Minnesota.
Though she debuted earlier in the season when the Beauts hosted the Boston Pride on Dec. 21, these two most recent contests have sparked Norton to contribute in any way that she can.
“My focus is just getting better everyday,” she said. “I want to be on the ice, I want to make a difference. We’re in a hole right now, and I just want that chance to make a difference. To be on the ice with the team and do what I can to help.”
The Beauts are 6-11-1 through said 18 games. After holding second place in the NWHL standings for a good stretch of time, Buffalo has dropped to fourth while currently in the midst of an 8-game winless streak. With six games to go in the regular season, it is time for all Beauts – great and small – to be firing on all cylinders and righting this team’s ship.
That includes Norton.
A Crafty Stickhandler and Playmaker
One of six Beauts on the roster that is a native Buffalonian, Norton is perhaps best known for her ability to stickhandle and be creative around the net. She is the most prolific scorer in the history of the University at Buffalo’s ACHA Division II women’s hockey program. Norton scored at least 20 goals in each of her four seasons, and set career highs as a senior in 2018-19 – 46 goals and 62 points to be exact.
Asked what her best attributes are as a hockey player, she responded:
“My shot and my hands. Getting out of really tricky situations. If I’m down in the corner, I’ll do a move or slip the puck between my legs to get out of that situation. Just making plays as best as I can.”
Norton has been the Beauts’ extra forward in the three games that she has played this season. She has generated one shot on goal in that stretch. More importantly though, she has maintained an even plus/minus rating despite her appearances being in 4-3, 8-2 and 7-1 losses for Buffalo.
The Buffalo faithful hope to see Norton pot at least one goal before the season is out, and she seemingly has the hands to do so.
“My preferred shot is always a quick wrist shot,” she said “I feel that it’s my most accurate shot. However, I love a good top-shelf backhand!”
Games Against the Whitecaps
Norton’s first road trip with Buffalo was the team’s Jan. 11 and 12 games at TRIA Rink in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was the lone Beauts’ visit to the Whitecaps’ home arena this regular season.
Norton’s father Mark flew from Buffalo to Chicago, but missed his connecting flight to St. Paul. Instead, he was rerouted to Des Moines, Iowa where he proceeded to drive four hours – in a snowstorm, no less – just to see his daughter play.
“That means the world to me,” said the younger Norton. “Just to know that my dad would come all that way to support me even if I don’t get on the ice much. It just shows how dedicated he is and how much he really loves me. I think that’s really special because a lot of parents wouldn’t do that.”
Playing in only her second and third NWHL games, Norton was understandably nervous when she took to the ice against the Whitecaps. Once she fell into rhythm however, she knew she could skate with some of the game’s best players.
“When I heard my name to go out on the ice I was a little bit shocked,” Norton said. “I was pretty nervous because I had never played right wing before, and because I felt like I couldn’t mess this up. After my shift though, I felt confident – especially knowing I could keep up and compete with these girls.”
Time to Turn Things Around
The Beauts have six regular season games to go. With all five NWHL teams making the playoffs, the question becomes who will Buffalo play in the opening round – and where?
If they remain in fourth place, they would end up hosting the fifth place team – the Connecticut Whale – at “Fort Beaut”, otherwise known as the Northtown Center. If the Beauts can jump ahead into third and push the Metropolitan Riveters down into fourth, then it’ll mean a return trip to Minnesota for a semi-final matchup with the Whitecaps.
No matter where they end up in the standings, the Beauts need to finish the regular season strong and garner some momentum for the postseason. At the very least, they need to break this 8-game quagmire that they are currently in. Norton is determined to be a part of the solution.
“I think we just have to focus on ourselves as a team,” said Norton. “Just push all the things that don’t matter out of the way. Get back to the basics, play together, and play for one another and nobody else. We’ve just really got to focus on what we do best and playing our game.”