The title of back-to-back champions is a tale that only some of many sports teams get to tell. Historic franchises, such as the Montreal Canadiens and the Los Angeles Lakers, have repeated titles 11 times each. To win a title is hard enough, but to win two in a row is something dynasties are built on. The Buffalo Beauts of the National Women’s Hockey League are one win away from accomplishing that feat.
How The Beauts Got Here
It all started in Lowell, Massachusetts, the site of the 2017 NWHL Isobel Cup Final. The Buffalo Beauts had waited so long for this moment, a time in which they could get revenge against the team that had ended their season just a year ago, the Boston Pride. After 60 minutes of putting everything on the line, as well as a whopping 60 saves from Isobel Cup MVP Brianne McLaughlin, the Beauts skated to their first championship in franchise history. The 3-2 victory made a statement to the league that this team was not to be taken lightly.
Fast forward to Oct. 28, 2017. With a revamped lineup and a new purpose, the Buffalo Beauts started of the season taking down the Connecticut Whale, 3-2. The Beauts hit a bump in the road soon after that, dropping four of their next five games. Things would only get better for the Beauts following their 4-2 loss against the Metropolitan Riveters in the last contest of that 5 game span.
Initiate pure dominance.
The Buffalo Beauts put their foot on the pedal and haven’t let up since. They have picked up a total of 11 straight wins, lifting themselves all the way to the 2018 Isobel Cup Final, in which they will take on the Metropolitan Riveters. The Riveters, a familiar foe, downed the Beauts in their first three meetings this season. Despite the Riveters holding the early 3-0 season series lead, the Beauts managed to even it up, tallying three wins in the final three contests against them. This Isobel Cup Final will not come easy to either team, as they both deserve to be in the positions that they are in.
Can They Do It?
Yes. Will they do it? That will lie in the hands of the 23 women that sit in that locker room on Sunday. It’s not so safe to say the Beauts are the favorite in this one. Of course, they are riding an 11-game win streak, but in terms of player performance, the Riveters are at the helm. The top five NWHL leaders in points this season are all members of the Metropolitan Riveters. Alexa Gruschow (22), Courtney Burke (19), Madison Packer (18), Rebecca Russo (17), and Jenny Ryan (16) have shown pure dominance on the ice this season.
It is no secret that the Buffalo Beauts have weapons of their own. Kourtney Kunichika, Hayley Scamurra and Maddie Elia are all tied at 14 points apiece. These numbers are respectively good enough for top 10 in the league. These three will need to prove their worth on Sunday if they are looking to capture the coveted Isobel Cup Trophy. If yet another McLaughlin-esque goaltending performance is needed to secure a win for the Beauts, Amanda Leveille will be the one to do it. She finished the regular season with a 12-4 record, 2.53 goals against average, and a .918 save percentage. The 23-year-old keeper stunned the Boston Pride in the semifinal, stopping 34 of 36 shots on goal. Leveille will need to mirror that stellar performance, if not play even better to complete the two-peat.
Throughout the season, the Beauts and the Riveters have fought to get to this moment. The two powerhouse teams in the NWHL have one thing on their minds: the shiny silver trophy known as the Isobel Cup. One game. One final push. 60 minutes will decide who takes it home. With history on the line, will the red-hot Buffalo Beauts win back to back championships or will the Metropolitan Riveters win their first Isobel Cup in franchise history?