Buffalo Beauts Mailbag Volume Four

It is Christmas Eve, and the Buffalo Beauts are now only days away from their Labatt Blue NWHL “Buffalo Believes Classic” outdoor game at Buffalo Riverworks. The Beauts and the Metropolitan Riveters will be squaring off for their first meeting of 2019-20. Approximately 1,000 fans are expected to turn out for this game, which also includes a specialty Beauts craft beer and an all-day “For The Love of Hockey” vendor exposition.

Quite the fanfare for a first meeting of the season between two old rivals. If anything, the Beauts are going to have a major chip on their shoulders when the weekend of Dec. 28 and 29 comes around.

Beauts Mailbag
THW presents out fourth edition of the Buffalo Beauts Mailbag where we respond to fans’ questions about the team.

Buffalo fell victim to two hard-to-accept losses the weekend prior to the Christmas holiday. Coming close to derailing the Boston Pride’s 11-game undefeated streak, the Beauts suffered a 4-3 overtime loss this past Saturday, followed by a 4-2 defeat on Sunday. While the second game was more clear cut, the overtime defeat came across as rather spurious in the eyes of many among the Buffalo faithful.

Every cloud possesses its own silver lining though. No matter what the NWHL standings may read for the wins column, the Beauts became the first NWHL team to steal a point off of Boston by forcing the game to OT. Defender Marie-Jo Pelletier left the weekend behind having set a new Beauts’ team record for points by a defender – it currently stands at 15 (3-12-15). Buffalo’s sniper Taylor Accursi’s 10th goal of the season was also the 20th of her career. Goaltender Tiffany Hsu made history by becoming the first player from Taiwan to suit up in the NWHL.

Plenty of positives to take away. Let us not forgot either that the Beauts will host Boston two more times this season, and have the opportunity to serve some comeuppance.

Buffalo Beauts goal celebration
Buffalo Beauts teammates (l-r) Emma Ruggiero, Lenka Čurmová, Erin Gehen and Cassidy MacPherson encircle defender Marie-Jo Pelletier after her Dec. 21, 2019 goal that broke the team record for points in a season by a defender (Photo credit: Mike Hetzel).

Buffalo is still playing above .500 hockey with a record of 6-5-1. Their focus right now is to finish out 2019 by earning two wins over Metropolitan before carrying that momentum into the New Year.

We present to you now our fourth batch of Beauts fan questions from across the globe. As readers may know already, in addition to being the Beauts beat writer for THW and for the NWHL, I am also the team’s Community Coordinator. Working closely around the players and coaching staff this season, the “Beauts Mailbag” is a way of giving fans a unique, inside look at the team.

Happy Holidays to all of you, and I wish you nothing but the best in 2020. Go Beauts!

“What are the players most excited about for the outdoor game?” – Madi from North Carolina, USA.

An interesting side note to the “Buffalo Believes Classic” is that this will not be the first outdoor game for a handful of the players.

Goaltenders Kelsey Neumann and Tiffany Hsu have both played wintry games at Buffalo Riverworks before as members of the Carolina Lady Hurricanes. Iveta Klimášová and Lenka Čurmová played an outdoor game with the Slovakian Women’s National Team against Hungary back in 2016.

Even though a showdown in the elements is familiar for some of them, outdoor games are a rarity and not something the players get to do often.

Kelsey Neumann Buffalo Beauts
Beauts goaltender Kelsey Neumann makes a stop against the Boston Pride (Photo credit: Mike Hetzel).

“I learned to skate on my parents’ and grandad’s outdoor rinks,” said Pelletier,” so playing in the ‘Buffalo Believes Classic’ will bring back to many childhood memories. It is going to be a privilege to play in front of the fans of Buffalo in the outdoor game.”

The team is also looking forward to a new challenge. Remember – the “Buffalo Believes Classic” is their first meeting of the season with the Riveters. With the exception of team captain Corinne Buie, Neumann and Accursi, the rest of the team has never gone up against Metropolitan before.

“I am most excited about a playing a new team in such a cool venue, and surrounded by the best fans,” said Erin Gehen. “The fans were electric this past weekend, and I can only imagine how great they’re going to be in an atmosphere like Riverworks.”

Erin Gehen Buffalo Beauts
Buffalo Beauts forward Erin Gehen has scored four goals and four assists for eight points through her first 12 games in the 2019-20 NWHL season (Photo credit: Mike Hetzel).

The Beauts recognize too that a lot of time and effort has been invested into getting this particular game “out there”. They are on social media as much as everyone else is, and can certainly see the push that has been made all along to encourage fans to attend this unique experience.

“I would say that I’m most excited for the atmosphere,” said Beauts rookie Cassidy MacPherson. “We’ve been promoting the game a lot, and I think we will have a lot of fans there supporting us.”

“Is the team doing anything fun for the holidays? Secret Santa?” – Nick from Cheektowaga, NY.

Yes, the Beauts did have a holiday party which was graciously given by head coach Pete Perram and his wife Deb. Each of the players and the team staff received a Christmas cracker, which is primarily a British and Canadian festive tradition. Plenty of food and beverages were shared, along with team cammaraderie.

The Beauts also did a white elephant gift exchange, which was a riot! If you have not played the white elephant version before, here are the rules. Participants were allowed to steal gifts at the end after everything had been opened, so if you were unhappy with your Christmas wares you had the chance to swipe someone else’s.

Richelle Skarbowski Buffalo Beauts
Beauts defender Richelle Skarbowski looks to make a pass behind Boston’s Taylor Wasylk (Photo credit: Mike Hetzel).

Yours truly ended up with a variety of gourmet hot chocolates from Tiffany Hsu. Emma Ruggiero would walk away with the classic board game Twister. Becki Bowering came home with a bicycle helmet that was meant to resemble some sort of green monster or ogre. Erin Gehen got the ever popular lottery scratch-off tickets. Those were just some of the items exchanged between the team.

This week as we gear up for the “Buffalo Believes Classic”, many of the out of town players returned home to be with their families for Christmas. Everyone is going to enjoy the holidays, and have some time to decompress before the team takes on the Riveters.

“How do the players foster community with each other? Do any of them live together?” – Amanda from Los Angeles, CA.

The 2019-20 Beauts quickly, naturally developed a family bond right from the get-go. It is one that has permeated throughout their time on the ice together, in the locker room and certainly away from the rink too. It has been a wonderful thing to see take shape and be a part of.

Sometimes simply being a hockey club fosters that type of community. The Beauts have regularly scheduled practices twice a week. They have a team workout once a week. Many of them partake in unofficial extra skating sessions of their own accord just to be with one another.

Tiffany Hsu Buffalo Beauts
Buffalo Beauts goalie Tiffany Hsu shakes hands with Boston Pride players following her NWHL debut on Dec. 22, 2019 (Photo credit: Mike Hetzel).

Off the ice, they are fast friends and partake in normal, everyday activities like any other young adults do.

Some of them are in fact roommates.

Marie-Jo Pelletier and Kim Brown live together in southern Ontario. Brown is originally from Toronto, and attended school at Brock University in St. Catharines. For a teammate like Pelletier, who is from much farther away – the maritime region of Dalhousie, New Brunswick – it is nice to have a roomie who knows the lay of the land.

Taylor Accursi and Sara Bustad are roommates too, and live right in Buffalo. Accursi is from Ancaster, Ontario, but of course has played three straight seasons in the “City of Good Neighbors”. Bustad is from Stillwater, Minnesota and is a first-year Beaut. Again, it works out nicely that a player from far away is living with one who is more familiar with the local territory. Accursi and Bustad also played host to the players’ own Thanksgiving gathering last month.

Sara Bustad Buffalo Beauts
Buffalo Beauts defender-forward Sara Bustad celebrates her second goal of the season on Dec. 21, 2019 (Photo credit: Mike Hetzel).

Iveta Klimášová and Lenka Čurmová – our two Slovakian players – live together in one of the Buffalo suburbs. Off the ice, they work as nannies for four young children who certainly keep their hands full.

Even players who do not live together but live by each other will typically commute with one another to practices and games. Kandice Sheriff and Becki Bowering both live in the Great Toronto Area, routinely ride together.