The Buffalo Beauts had already re-signed their top scorer from the 2019-20 season. Now they have made certain to re-ink their premier defender as well.
Word was released on Apr. 24, 2020 that the Beauts had come to terms with heralded defender Marie-Jo Pelletier for the upcoming NWHL “Season Six”. A native of Dalhousie, New Brunswick, the diminutive blueliner assembled an outstanding rookie season, and set multiple new records in the process.
“The NWHL has given me the opportunity to continue playing the game professionally and to be involved within the Buffalo community,” said Pelletier in the press release for her signing. “The fans in Buffalo have truly made me feel at home. The support around the league is incredible and I cannot wait to see what the sixth season will bring.”
With the Pelletier signing, the Beauts now have three players on their roster for 2020-21. The other two signings – Isobel Cup winner and Olympic defender Lisa Chesson, and high-flying forward Taylor Accursi – have shown that Buffalo is indeed “three for three” in offseason action.
First Year Heroics for Pelletier
The fans of Western New York quickly became enamored with Pelletier’s play for the Beauts. Appearing in all 24 regular season games, she went 6-15-21 in scoring from the back end. Those numbers placed her second on the team in scoring behind Accursi, and third overall among defenders league-wide.
Pelletier was particularly deadly on the power play. Fans became accustomed to seeing her run the point, and ultimately sneaking down low to generate backdoor chances as well. Her three goals and nine assists on the advantage set a new NWHL record for most power play points in a single season by a skater.
Additionally, Pelletier rewrote multiple Beauts’ team records. Her 21 points set Buffalo’s mark for points in a season by a defender. Pelletier’s 15 assists tied teammate Iveta Klimášová for most helpers in a season by a Buffalo skater too.
Not surprisingly, Pelletier received multiple accolades because of her performance. She was selected to play in the 2020 NWHL All-Star Game in Boston. By season’s end, she was named one of the NWHL Fans’ Three Stars of the Season and was a finalist for the Newcomer of the Year Award.
Looking Ahead to Season Six
Come to any Beauts game at the Northtown Center and you will find “Mighty Mouse” posters in the crowd of fans cheering on Pelletier. At only 4-foot-11, she may be the smallest player in the NWHL, but she certainly possesses one of the biggest hearts.
“The Beauts’ fans and the city of Buffalo have truly made my first in the NWHL a special one,” Pelletier told THW. “The love that I feel from them on and off the ice is very heartwarming, which makes it even more exciting for me to return to Buffalo.”
Even though it was her rookie season, Pelletier was immediately christened with an “A” on her jersey. Her leadership skills in the locker room and on the bench were invaluable to her teammates and to the coaching staff. It is important to note too that with the signing of Accursi, Buffalo now has two of their three captains re-signed from 2019-20.
This past season did not end the way that the Beauts had envisioned. The team suffered an opening round playoff elimination at the hands of the Connecticut Whale. That defeat came after winning only twice in their final 14 games of the regular season.
Pelletier and the Beauts will look to rebound in the year ahead. With only three players currently under contract, there are likely to be both old and new faces who will soon join them. No matter how the 2020-21 edition of the Beauts ultimately looks, Pelletier is making her current focus be on personal improvements and preparations for the season ahead.
“I am currently focusing on getting stronger and faster,” she said. “I am finding ways to be creative with my at-home workouts to remain motivated and positive. As we get closer to the start of the season, I will focus more on the goals that I set for myself for the upcoming season.”
A good number of free agents may wish to choose Buffalo as their destination, knowing that Pelletier, Accursi and Chesson are already there.