The first time that we will see the 2019-20 edition of the Buffalo Beauts in game action will be this Saturday Sept. 28. The team is set to square off with the Brock University Badgers at 4:50 PM inside the friendly confines of the Northtown Center – otherwise what is becoming known as “Fort Beaut”. Admission is for free.
While it is an exhibition game, there are still multiple angles that will make this one an interesting contest. A pair of sisters going up against each other. A recent Brock graduate facing her former teammates. But perhaps most importantly, a close look at how this season’s Beauts are assembled and utilized by head coach Pete Perram.
We will tell you everything you need to know about this game, and who to watch for from both sides. If you have not attended a Beauts game in the past, this is perfect opportunity to do so and see what the NWHL is all about.
The Brock Badgers: Who to Watch For
By no means will this game be a cakewalk for the Beauts. The Badgers have a very talented roster, and they have for a number of seasons.
We have to start first with their goaltending. Number-one goaltender Jensen Murphy is playing in her fifth season for Brock. Murphy has handled the bulk of all goaltending duties since her freshman campaign. Playing no less than 18 games in each of her seasons, her goals-against average has never gone above a 2.08 and her save percentage has never fallen below .932%. Murphy set a career-best 1.96 GAA in 22 games as a sophomore, while this past season saw her post a career high .944 SV% through 23 contests.
Then there is forward Annie Berg. THW interviewed Berg back in August as she was readying herself for her senior season. She led the Badgers in scoring as a freshman in 2016-17 and again this past 2018-19 season. Berg is a true power-forward standing 5-foot-9 and possessing a larger frame. She has scored 24 goals and 38 assists for 62 points in 72 career games. Berg was better than a point-per-game scorer (11-14-25 in 24 games) in 2018-19.
When the Badgers take to the ice inside of “Fort Beaut”, Buffalo fans will notice a very familiar name on one of the opposing jerseys. Hunter Accursi is a senior-year forward for Brock. Of course, her sister Taylor is a Beauts fan favorite who is playing her third season in Buffalo. Hunter Accursi wears number-20 for Brock, while sister Taylor is number-95 for the Beauts. Through 65 career games, the younger Accursi has scored eight goals and three assists for the Badgers.
“Here Are Your Buffalo Beauts!”
The Beauts of 2019-20 have a very different look to them. Only three players on the roster have played for the team previously. While the rest of the team may be newcomers, we assure you that this is a club you can readily get behind. Intangibles such as heart, character, and determination seem to ring true throughout the lineup. Anchoring the squad are veteran forwards Accursi and Corinne Buie, as well as goaltender Kelsey Neumann.
Accursi is one of the smoothest stickhandlers in the NWHL, and has totaled 10 goals and seven helpers in 28 career games. Buie is an original NWHLer who will be playing in her fifth season in the league and her fourth for Buffalo. She served as Beauts team captain in 2017-18, and shared the captaincy this past season. Buie has scored 19 goals and 17 assists in 66 NWHL games. Like Buie, Neumann was a member of the Beauts’ 2017 Isobel Cup-winning squad. After a brief hiatus in 2018-19, the beloved goaltender is back for her third season with the team.
Fans should be just as excited to see the newest Beauts, as they are the returning players. Buffalo’s blue line is entirely fresh. The team’s top defense pairings throughout training camp have been Lenka Čurmová paired with Meg Delay, and MJ Pelletier partnered with Ashley Birdsall. While Perram has tweaked the combinations, those particular pairs have been the most frequent, and we anticipate them being the ones utilized against Brock. Fans will particularly enjoy seeing Čurmová’s heavy shot from the point that she unloads routinely.
Čurmová’s fellow countrywoman Iveta Klimášová will be another fan favorite. Though soft-spoken, Klimášová is exceptionally strong, and has noticeable size at 5-foot-8 and 205 pounds. She has played center during training camp, and has really nice maneuverability for a larger player. Klimášová has soft hands around the net, and will be Buffalo’s first or second-line center.
Among all of the new Beauts forwards, one sticks out especially as we head into this game. Rookie forward Kim Brown graduated from Brock earlier this year. She became the fifth player to sign to Buffalo’s 2019-20 roster. The 5-foot-7 Brown scored 12 goals and 13 assists in 106 career games for the Badgers. She is of course very familiar with her former teammates, and knows their tendencies quite well. Throughout training camp Brown has played on a line primarily with Maddie Norton, but has also spent time with Sara Bustad, Becki Bowering, and Emma Ruggiero.
We’re Just Getting Started
We will also get a sense of how Buffalo’s goaltending measures up. The likelihood is that both Neumann and Mariah Fujimagari will see time in the net against Brock. While longtime Beauts know Neumann well, they have had very limited opportunities to see her play. This exhibition game will be a chance to see her in her element. Likewise, Fujimagari has been stellar in net throughout training camp. At 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, she takes up a lot of net. She also has a very quick glove hand, and tracks shots beautifully.
Trust us when we say that fans will enjoy getting accustomed to these newest Beauts. There are three things you can count on seeing in particular when watching them out on the ice. Firstly, they possess a great amount of speed. 5-foot Emma Ruggiero darts very quickly, and she is far from the only one who can do so. Secondly, there will be a lot of shot blocking. Pelletier, Delay, Čurmová and Birdsall are each proficient at the art, as are some of the team’s forwards too. Lastly, you will see effort from the players every shift – they give it readily and demand it of themselves.
The exhibition game against Brock is just the start for Buffalo. It is the first time that the players will be able to go hard against an actual opponent, and test their skills as a unit. They will collectively gel together too.