The world of women’s professional hockey has been turned on its ear a bit since May 1, 2019. And while the women’s game is in the process of finding the right path to forge on through, the days leading into the summer of 2019 are still tumultuous in their infancy.
Of the five NWHL teams, the Buffalo Beauts seemingly have the roughest offseason – seemingly. Every active player from the Beauts’ 2018-19 roster – with the exception of goaltender Julia DiTondo who does not make public use of social media – has demonstrated support of the #ForTheGame movement. One would have to assume then that none of these same players will be on the Beauts for 2019-20.
Wiped completely clear, off like a bandage, no time to think about feelings – this team is going to have a very different look to it, especially now that Pegula Sports and Entertainment (PSE) has relinquished ownership and returned the team to the NWHL.
The dust has not fully settled yet, but once it does the Beauts we will meet in the autumn will look very different from the year prior.
It is difficult to forecast right now what players end up making the 2019-20 roster, but there are definitely ones out there who are worth the consideration of Beauts’ General Manager Mandy Cronin.
Ground Rules for This Discussion
Before we look at potential Beauts signings, we need to first go over some ground rules for this discussion:
- We are not taking a side here one way or the other in relation to the #ForTheGame movement. Side is maybe the wrong word to use anyway, but oftentimes it is a constraint we are subject to having to accept when talking about “hot topics” like this one. Regardless, we are not offering any side here one way or the other.
- Every player is allowed to comfortably decide what she feels is best for her, and she should feel no need to justify her decision to anyone. We mean this especially in regards to individuals choosing to play or not play in North America during the 2019-20 professional season.
- Only a player knows what a player goes through. Period.
- The players are allowed to change their minds, even after expressing sentiments one way or another.
- Live and let live. Be respectful. Be kind.
Who Should Buffalo GM Cronin Sign?
Okay. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let us look at a few different players that GM Cronin should seriously consider offering contracts.
A reliable source has shared with THW that a 2019 Buffalo Beauts Free Agent Camp is in the works, though a date has not been established at this moment. Players are presently being reached out to and invited to attend the camp.
In this exercise we are not going to try and assemble an entire 20-plus player roster. We will simply be selecting a few players whom we feel would be a good fit for the Beauts, and backing up our reasoning.
Here is whom we have come up with.
Emma Ruggiero (forward), Buffalo State College
Much like the New England area’s Connecticut Whale and Boston Pride, the Buffalo Beauts have developed a penchant for scouting and signing hometown talent well before PSE ever became involved with the team.
Western New York native Emma Ruggiero just completed her senior season at Buffalo State College playing NCAA Division III hockey. Serving as the Bengals’ team captain, she set career highs during her 2018-19 campaign with 14 goals, 10 assists and 24 points in 25 games.
Ruggiero is a product of the local Buffalo youth hockey program the Regals. At 4-foot-11, the lefty shooter plays a feisty, scrappy game despite her diminutive size. In 100 career NCAA games, she compiled 119 penalty minutes.
Speaking to her offensive side, Ruggiero ended her career at Buffalo State with 28 goals and 24 assists for 52 points. During this past season she was named Northeast Women’s Hockey League’s (NEWHL) Player of the Week for Nov. 26 through Dec. 2, 2018. Ruggiero scored four goals and an assist in two games against Cortland, which included a hat-trick during a 5-2 victory on Nov. 30.
Her Buffalo ties would draw upon the local faithful. Ruggiero’s style of play would make her an ideal second or third-liner.
Kelsey Neumann (goaltender), Buffalo Beauts 2016-18, 2017 Isobel Cup champion
Adding Kelsey Neumann to the 2019-20 roster is a no-brainer. In fact, it is so simple that it is brilliant. Neumann was a fan favorite among Beauts and NWHL fans alike during her two seasons with the team in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
During her rookie season, she served as the Beauts’ tertiary goalie behind Brianne McLaughlin and Amanda Leveille. Buffalo would win the Isobel Cup that season, much in thanks to the phenomenal goaltending of McLaughlin in the Cup Final. Neumann would get her name inscribed upon the trophy.
Perhaps more importantly from that season is that Neumann was Buffalo’s recipient of the 2017 NWHL Foundation Award. The award is bestowed annually upon one player from each of the league’s teams, as the individual most actively applying the core values of hockey to her community. This was due namely to Neumann’s coaching mentorship of young female athletes and her overall good-naturedness towards children.
Neumann would re-sign with the Beauts for the 2017-18 season where she served primarily as the team’s backup goalie. She would make her NWHL regular season debut on the road in a Mar. 10, 2018 Beauts’ 4-1 win in Connecticut after coming in to relieve Leveille.
What is unfortunate is that Neumann saw such limited action across her two seasons. Bringing her back into the fold would make fans happy, and would be a feel-good story for Buffalo – a win-win situation for Cronin.
Colleen Murphy (defense), Buffalo Beauts 2017-18, Connecticut Whale 2018-19
Katherine Murphy (defense), Robert Morris University
If Cronin is looking for a ready-to-go defense pairing, then she ought to consider signing the Murphy sisters – Colleen and Katherine.
Colleen Murphy is already a player that Beauts fans are quite familiar with. “The Little Bulldog” played her first professional season with the team in 2017-18 and demonstrated strong efficiency in situational play. Even strength, power play, 5-on-4 and 5-on-3 penalty kills – you name it, and Colleen was called upon to do it.
Shockingly, she was not re-upped with Buffalo for 2018-19. But where one door closes, another opens. The elder Murphy ended up joining the Connecticut Whale late last season and helped keep things competitive for her new club in nine games.
Sister Katherine is three years younger, and has yet to make her professional debut. That could very well change this season. A crafty defender for four seasons with Robert Morris University, the younger Murphy is a veteran of 137 NCAA games for the Colonials between 2014-15 and 2017-18.
Katherine is sound in her own end, but also does well when it comes to dishing out passes. She scored double digits in points for all four of her seasons, and set career highs during her junior year with 17 helpers and 18 points in 34 games.
Katherine takes very few penalties, and never had more than three in a season during her NCAA career. She will, however, let shots fly and averaged more than 25 shots per season for the Colonials.
Buffalo is very much a family-oriented city, and the fans would feed off of having a pair of sisters on their roster. The Murphys already play together with the Carolina Lady Hurricanes, a USA Hockey Women’s Division B team.
Katherine Donohue (forward), Buffalo Beauts 2017-18
Last but not least is forward Katherine Donohue. Historically, the Beauts have had success with players from Mercyhurst University. Emily Janiga, Shelby Bram and others have all played collegiately for the Lakers and professionally for the Beauts, as has Donohue.
A Rochester-area native, Donohue still routinely commutes back and forth to Buffalo for her work as a strength and conditioning coach. Her commitment to fitness permeates well into her hockey game, as she is a tremendously conditioned athlete.
Donohue is the type of player you want to have in a chess match with an opposing coach. She plays the role of a defensive-forward to a T.
In her 132 games played for Mercyhurst, Donohue never scored more than seven goals in a season. In her freshman (2012-13) and junior (2014-15) seasons she did not score any goals at all. However, she was never a minus player in any of her four seasons either, and finished her college career as a plus-20.
Donohue played for the Beauts during the 2017-18 season. She scored one goal in six regular season games, while fulfilling a role as a shutdown forward and face-off specialist. Donohue could fit such a role again for the 2019-20 Beauts.