For the week of Sept. 16, 2019, all five NWHL teams are beginning their training camps. The 2019-20 season is the league’s fifth, and it is bound to be the most compelling season yet. There are plenty of new faces on all of the rosters, but especially that of the Buffalo Beauts.
For a third straight season, I will be serving as THW’s Beauts beat writer. Additionally, this will mark my second straight season of being the NWHL’s own Beauts beat writer as well. I will be in attendance for all of the club’s home games – including the outdoor “Buffalo Believes Classic” – as well as a few of the road games too. I will also be attending the team’s practices at their new home inside of the Northtown Center.
Throughout the summer I was able to connect with many of the Beauts’ new and returning players. I also have had some interactions with the team’s General Manager Mandy Cronin.
“If you look at our roster, you’ll notice so many of our players were captains on their college or national teams,” said Cronin in the NWHL’s recent article announcing the start of training camps. “We are building a true team where chemistry will be a vital component. That’s what training camp is all about, and we really looking forward to building a Buffalo Beauts team that connects with the community and makes our fans proud.”
With training camp underway and the Buffalo regular season beginning on the road against the Connecticut Whale on Oct. 5, I asked Beauts fans to send along their questions regarding the team’s upcoming season. While I was not able to include every question that I received, I hope the ones which were selected are appealing to all of my readers. And by all means – I intend to do a few more “Beauts Mailbag” articles throughout the season, so please keep the questions coming in!
“How many players on a roster and how many dress for the game?” – Kevin from Cheektowaga, NY
Maximum roster size is 25 players. Most of the league’s teams are intending to be around 20 players, so that they have options for adding additional players as the season moves along.
Buffalo’s most recent signing on Sept. 9 of third-year Beaut Taylor Accursi was their 16th for the 2019-20 roster. Figure they will add at least four more players, but it is bound to be more than that. I would guess more likely six more signings.
The primary reason being that the team needs to fill out their blue line. The Beauts only have three natural defenders – Meg Delay, Marie-Jo Pelletier, and Lenka Čurmová. While Iveta Klimášová has been listed as a defender, she told me that she has been playing forward the past few seasons and anticipates doing the same in Buffalo. Ashley Birdsall is listed as a defender-forward, but feels more of an affinity to the center position. I would expect at least three of the remaining signings the Beauts make to be defenders.
Additionally, the club needs a third goaltender. While a particular amount of goalies has never been set in stone, the unwritten standard has been three. Right now the Beauts have Mariah Fujimagari and Kelsey Neumann. Given the increase in regular season games, a third goalie is a must as a safety measure for illness, injury or off-ice commitments.
As for players dressed for game-day action, expect the same as last season: nine forwards, six defenders and two goalies.
“I’d like your observations on our New Brunswick girl Marie-Jo Pelletier” – Donat from Dieppe, New Brunswick, CA.
While it is open for the taking, I believe that the Beauts have found their number-one defender in MJ Pelletier. I have watched her game closely for a while now, and interviewed her for THW when she was just about to begin her junior season with the University of New Hampshire Wildcats.
I truly do not know how Pelletier flew under the radar for so long. I imagine that once the season gets going, the other four teams will be green with envy wondering how Buffalo nabbed her. I always like to say that even though Pelletier is 4-foot-11, you may as well list her as 11-foot-4 because that is how big she plays.
I anticipate her being the team’s best shot-blocker. During Pelletier’s time with the Wildcats, she was never lower than fourth on the team in blocks. She tied for the team lead in 2016-17 with 69 of them in 35 games.
Pelletier possesses a scoring touch too, having gone 13-39-52 in 143 NCAA games.
Meg Delay and Lenka Čurmová are very solid defenders as well, and that is why I am saying the bona fide top blueliner role is up for the taking. But with Pelletier, figure that the Beauts already have at least one-half of the team’s top defense pairing.
“Who should we be looking at leading the team in points” – Eric from Cheektowaga, NY.
I believe that Brooke Stacey is going to turn more than a few heads this season with her scoring. I would liken her to a Jonna Curtis for the Minnesota Whitecaps last season. Before the 2018-19 season began, I do not believe there was anyone who envisioned Curtis finishing second in the league for scoring. I could see Stacey turning in a very similar performance.
She recorded double digits in points during all four of her NCAA seasons with the Maine Black Bears. Stacey’s assist totals went up each season with numbers of seven, nine, 13 and 17 respectively. Her best season overall was her 2016-17 sophomore campaign when she set a career high of 15 goals in 30 games, and finished with 28 points and a plus-13.
Stacey finished her NCAA career having scored 41 goals and 46 assists for 87 points in 134 games.
It will be very interesting to see how Beauts head coach Pete Perram ultimately assembles his forward lines. In my book, Stacey is a top-line player and is on the Beauts first power-play unit. If Perram combines her with Buie and Accursi, not only will you have a major scoring threat but Stacey’s rookie season numbers could go up and up.
“Which player is getting the least name recognition that will end up being the most surprisingly effective player?” – Spencer from Dover, NH.
The tough part in answering this question is that there are multiple Beauts players that are not getting a lot of attention right now, but that will undoubtedly assemble some eye-popping performances this season. That being said, if I had to pick one player who is being underestimated right now it would be Meg Delay.
Keep in mind that Delay is a proven champion already. Despite the fact that she is only 22 years old – and she will not turn 23 until April – she has a CWHL Clarkson Cup ring to her name, after having won the championship with the 2017-18 Markham Thunder. Delay played in 21 of the Thunder’s 28 regular season games on their way to the championship.
At the time when she signed with the Beauts, Perram said, ““Megan has demonstrated a steady development in her career, and I’m confident her time to shine is now with the Beauts”
I agree completely with Perram’s assessment – 2019-20 is going to be breakthrough season for Delay. While with Markham she had defenders like Megan Bozek, Dania Simmonds, and Laura Fortino ahead of her in the defense depth chart, in Buffalo it will be Delay who is one of the top defense corps. It would not surprise me in the least if Delay and Pelletier become the Beauts’ top defense pair and one of the better pairings in the NWHL.
With an opportunity to be creative and step up offensively, look for Delay to put up some numbers this season as well.
“Will there be a Beauts logo on the ice at Northtown? And the outdoor classic?” – Rish from East Coast, USA.
I would say that it is unlikely that there will be a Beauts logo on the ice at the Northtown simply because the rink that the team will be playing on is used for numerous teams and it hosts a variety of other games and leagues. This is not any different from when the Beauts played at the HarborCenter, as the center ice logo was the building’s logo.
It is possible that a Beauts logo could be added to the outdoor rink ice at RiverWorks for the “Buffalo Believes Classic”. With it being September still, there would be plenty of time to incorporate a Beauts logo into the ice surfaces. There are actually two outdoor rinks at RiverWorks, with an overheard balcony encircling the two from above. With spectators able to look downward, a Beauts logo at center ice would look very cool.
What I do know is that GM Mandy Cronin is working very diligently to make certain that the Northtown Center looks recognizably as home of the Buffalo Beauts. Expect to see some Beauts decor for home games amid the welcoming atmosphere.