With the NWHL’s player-signing deadline coming to a close on Monday Feb. 24, the Buffalo Beauts were able to get two signed contracts in beforehand. Just three days later, word was released on the afternoon of Feb. 27 that Buffalo General Manager Mandy Cronin had added two topnotch players from Merrimack College.
Joining the Beauts just in time for the final two regular season games of 2019-20 are former Warriors goaltender Léa-Kristine Demers and leading scorer Mikyla Grant-Mentis. The signings by Cronin are a means of further weaponizing the Beauts for a shot at the Isobel Cup.
“We are very excited to welcome Mikyla and Léa-Kristine to the Beauts,” Cronin said in the press release announcing the signings. “We are on a mission to bring the Isobel Cup back to Buffalo, and we believe these two highly-skilled young players can help us do that.”
Demers and Grant-Mentis put the Beauts at 24 players total on the active roster. Demers is now Buffalo’s fourth goalie on the roster, while Grant-Mentis is the team’s 12th natural forward.
The 22-year-old Demers is from Repentigny, Quebec, Canada. She handled the bulk of Merrimack’s goaltending duties in both her freshman (2016-17) and senior (2019-20) seasons. Additionally, she served as an alternate captain in in her final campaign as well.
In her four seasons with Merrimack, Demers’ seasonal save percentage was never below a .906. Her finest total for that statistic came as a junior when she posted a .920 in six games. In 70 career NCAA games, Demers went 16-44-8. Her career save percentage came to a solid .910 and a decent 3.03 goals-against average.
For the recently completed 2019-20 NCAA season, Demers’ 795 saves were eighth most in the nation. 13 times she faced at least 30 shots in a game.
Standing at 5-foot-11, Demers brings solid size to the Beauts goal crease. She catches left, as do the three other Buffalo goalies – Tiffany Hsu, Kelsey Neumann and Mariah Fujimagari.
Grant-Mentis is Merrimack’s all-time leading points scorer. Through 137 career games, she generated 117 points (56 G, 61 A) – an average of 0.85 points per game. Grant-Mentis never scored less than 23 points in a season during her four campaigns with the Warriors.
A native of Brampton, Ontario, Canada, the 5-foot-6 forward brings a lot of firepower. Her 20 goals during her 2019-20 senior season tied her for second most in Hockey East and placed her within the top 10 in the country. Grant-Mentis recorded a shot on goal in all 33 games, including 10 shots alone in a 4-3 victory over Brown University on Nov. 27, 2019.
Having a player who scored seasons of nine, 15, 12 and 20 respectively in college should very much fill the scoring void that was made upon Brooke Stacey’s departure. Buffalo has badly needed to bolster their offense heading into the playoffs. Their 66 goals in 22 games this season puts them at third in the NWHL, while they have also allowed a league-worst 110 goals.
Not only with Grant-Mentis help to make sure that pucks are going in at the other end, she will help keep them out of her own net as well. Her 39 blocked shots in 2019-20 was second most among Merrimack forwards.
The Beauts Are Going All-In
The Beauts had to do something to right the ship, and Cronin is counting upon Demers and Grant-Mentis to make that happen. Prior to their signings, Buffalo has been on a terrible slide that has seen them win only once in their past 12 games.
Amid those 11 losses, the Beauts have allowed five or more goals on nine different occasions. Drastic times often call for drastic measures, so with that mindset, adding a fourth goaltender makes sense. Buffalo needs to do something to keep the puck out of the net, and bringing in Demers at the 11th hour is seemingly a means to stop the bleeding.
Grant-Mentis should be able to immediately step in and create offense. The Beauts have only one skater who has reached double digits in goals this season. Taylor Accursi has a team-leading 16 goals in 22 games, but no other current Beaut has even scored seven.
The goal scoring cannot rest on Accursi’s shoulders alone. Boston has five skaters with 10 or more goals, and the Whitecaps and Riveters each have three. Grant-Mentis is a top-line player, and should alleviate some of the pressure from Accursi right from the get-go.
Regardless, the Beauts have two regular season games remaining – this Feb. 29 and Mar. 1 on the road in New Jersey. After that, they host the Connecticut Whale for a Mar. 6 semi-final play-in game – the winner of which faces the top-seeded Pride in the semis. Demers and Grant-Mentis could be what Buffalo needs to get them to Boston.