Hockey playoffs – regardless of league – are a time for unexpected heroes to rise to the occasion. Postseason dreams are often decidedly won or lost by someone other than an All-Star or the team’s top scorer. Call them “unsung heroes” or even “Black Aces” if you would like, but these players have been known to surprisingly determine outcomes in a series.
In the NWHL, it is no different. Players rise to the occasion in postseason play every season, even if they are not normally accustomed to the limelight. During the 2017-18 season, defender Sarah Casorso won the opening round for the Beauts 3-2 on her overtime tally from the point in the HarborCenter. It was the only NWHL goal – regular season or playoffs – of Casorso’s three-year career in the league. A surprise hero indeed!
Now the NWHL playoff stage is set. The Buffalo Beauts will host a home postseason game for only the second time in their four-year history. Having recorded a point in the standings in each of their final eight games of the regular season – including a string of seven wins in a row – one would have to say that the Beauts deserve at least one home playoff game. Their fans certainly deserve one too. They now will face the Boston Pride in the opening round on Saturday Mar. 9, 2019.
— Buffalo Beauts (@BuffaloBeauts) March 3, 2019
In their postseason history against one another, the Beauts and the Pride have each won two games a piece. They have also faced each other in the playoffs every NWHL season thus far.
Now that the 2018-19 regular season has concluded, the NWHL postseason bracket looks like this: the Minnesota Whitecaps (12-4-0) finished in the top seed and have a bye for the opening round. The second-seeded Beauts (11-4-1) face the third place Pride (11-5-0). The fourth place Metropolitan Riveters (4-12-0) – the reigning Isobel Cup champions – battle it out with the fifth place Connecticut Whale (2-12-2). The Whitecaps face whoever wins between the Riveters and the Whale. Meanwhile, the winner of Buffalo and Boston earns a spot in the Isobel Cup Final.
We take a look now at three different Buffalo Beauts who could be surprise heroes once the playoffs get underway.
#1 Corinne Buie
Some are probably questioning why Corinne Buie would be on this list. After all, she is a two-time Isobel Cup champion and is the only NWHLer to have played in every Final since the league’s inception. While that may be the case, Buie’s role with the Beauts has changed this current season as she has assumed a position as more of a checking-line/energy-line specialist.
Buffalo’s traditional third line of Buie, Taylor Accursi and Annika Zalewski are a trio of tenacious forecheckers that make things a living hell for the opposition. In the process though, Buie has unfairly become overlooked at times this season – overshadowed by Beauts with better numbers. It is dangerous for opposing teams to do that.
Buie’s three goals and four assists in 16 games in 2018-19 are the lowest of her three seasons with the Beauts. Previously Buffalo’s team captain during the 2017-18 season, she scored double digits in points the past two campaigns. When the Beauts won the Isobel Cup at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, Buie (9G, 3A) tied with Shiann Darkangelo (7G, 5A) for the team lead in points. Her nine goals were the most for any Beaut as well.
What the opposition needs to be wary of is that given her penchant for scoring, Buie is very likely to pot a goal or two in playoff action. She excels in all facets of the forward game, and sees regular action at even strength and on specialty teams. With so much of the attention put on offensive players like Buffalo’s Maddie Elia, Hayley Scamurra, and Dani Cameranesi, opposing teams cannot afford to lose track of Buie in the process.
Our point for including her on this list is wanting fans to recognize that even if she has been given a focus on defense, she is always a threat to score.
#2 Jordan Juron
Beauts forward Jordan Juron falls into that “Black Aces” category especially. Primarily a periphery player all season long, she has seen action in only three regular season contests. Having also contended with an injury in the early goings of 2018-19, Juron has not been utilized as much as we would like to see. She has two shots on goal in her three appearances. Juron most recently suited up during a 5-1 win against the Riveters on Jan. 12, 2019.
This is one of the difficulties in a team like Buffalo possessing so much talent on one roster – it is tedious to find an appropriate balance for all players to showcase their talents. Prior to their shootout loss against the Riveters on the final game of the regular season, the Beauts won seven games in a row. There would be little to no justification in changing the lineup during such a successful stretch.
What is helpful though is that a player like Juron is always at the ready when called upon. Keep in mind that last season she was initially with the team on a tryout basis. Her first action with the Beauts came on Jan. 14, 2018 when she picked up an assist against the Whale. She would not play another game until nearly two months later when she scored her first NWHL goal on Mar. 10, 2018, also against the Whale.
Though not necessarily ideal, Juron is accustomed to contributing at a moment’s notice.
Anything can happen in the playoffs. Though no one would want to see an injury or illness take place, it is known to happen and teams must call up their reserves. The Beauts are guaranteed at least one postseason game when they face the Pride. Though it is unlikely she will see action, Juron is a viable option that head coach Cody McCormick has waiting in the wings.
#3 Jordyn Burns
Defender Jordyn Burns is whom we feel may make the most noticeable difference for the Beauts playoff dreams. A healthy scratch for more than half the season, the All-Star blueliner finally was inserted into the lineup upon the retirements of defenders Sarah Edney and Sarah Casorso. Burns has arguably been the Beauts best defensive-defender for each of her three seasons with the team.
Her first action with the team this season came on Jan. 26, 2019 against the Boston Pride. Burns played the remaining four games for Buffalo after that. In the process, she picked up a lone assist and finished as a plus-one.
Burns is very reminiscent of what the Beauts had with Casorso. Much like her former teammate, Burns has never scored an NWHL goal – regular season or playoffs – during her three seasons in the league. She is about due to score her first.
When THW caught up with Burns after a Beauts practice near the end of October, she told us about consciously focusing on being more offensive. She said at the time:
“A lot of our focus this year for defense is being a little more offensively minded. I’m not typically one to be so offensively minded. I am one of those stay-at-home ‘D’. If you don’t notice me, I’m doing my job. But this year and in the off-season I’ve been focusing on getting up in the play.”
Buffalo’s upcoming playoff game would be the perfect time for her to tally one. Burns will certainly be a presence looking to shut down key Boston players like Jillian Dempsey, Gigi Marvin, and McKenna Brand. Generating a goal of her own would be nice to see for the soft-spoken blueliner, and could spell victory for Buffalo.