Beauts’ Janiga Gears Up For NWHL’s Third Season

It was a true pleasure to watch Buffalo Beautsrookie Emily Janiga‘s performance this past NWHL season. On-ice heroics teeming with visions of what she will accomplish for the team in years ahead. A few of her goals could make your heart race watching them unfold. It was perhaps even more exciting to see her contributions in the playoffs—contributions that grabbed Buffalo the Isobel Cup championship.

Janiga played in all 17 games for Buffalo during the regular season, and in both playoff games as well. In each of those games, the Beauts forward who turned 23 in early March forechecked tenaciously and was seemingly setting up shop in the opposition’s net like she owned the place. Her determination and relentless attack led her to finishing third on the Beauts in goals (six) and tied for third in points (11) with veteran Kourtney Kunichika.

Better yet, the playoffs quite simply belonged to Janiga, as she led all Beauts in scoring with three goals and an assist in the two postseason games. Although obtaining the Isobel Cup was most certainly a team effort, it would be fair to say that if Janiga’s performance had not been part of their “recipe for success,” the championship would not have materialized for the Beauts.

A Family Affair

“I was fortunate to have both my mom and dad in the stands during the Isobel Cup championship game, which made that moment even more special,” Janiga says. “They came down to the ice during the celebration, and I could see the happiness in their smiles and in the big hugs they gave. That moment is indescribable and I can’t be more thankful to be able to share that moment and that memory with them.”

Born and raised in the Buffalo area and having attended Nichols School for high school, Emily Janiga had plenty of supporters who were also cheering her on back home. “Although my mom and dad were the only two to make it for the final game, I had so much support back home. My entire family was watching the game at home, and afterward, I received a lot of phone calls and messages. They were ecstatic for me, and I can’t thank them enough for their continuous love and support in everything that I do.”

I have had the pleasure of a few previous conversations with Emily Janiga, and in this instance, the discussion is geared towards her plans for the offseason and what will soon be the Beauts’ third NWHL season. But the difference going forward is that Janiga will no longer be a rookie. And, the face of the team will be quite different with key Beauts players retiring (Brianne McLaughlin, Harrison Browne, Devon Skeats) or leaving to play with the U.S. national team (Megan Bozek, Emily Pfalzer). Janiga will need to be one of the returning players who keeps a sense of continuity going for the team.

A Veteran Now

“As a veteran next season I need to step up and be an even stronger leader, and work towards being a more consistent player for the team.” I would argue that she already does both very well, but one thing I have learned about Janiga is that she never stops looking to improve as a player. Though she may take a little time to relish the championship, she will by no means be taking the summer easy. Basically, she will be right back to work in short order.

“I am going to take some time to enjoy the moment and spend time with my family but after that, I am back into training and preparing for next season. I will use the next months to make myself a better player and athlete; using the time to develop and improve all areas of my game. Aside from hockey and training, I will be balancing the other hours with work and school.”

New Faces

In addition to the retirements and the national team players leaving, very soon there will be other events that may reshape the lineup for the Beauts. The NWHL announced earlier this week the timelines for free agency and the league’s draft, the restricted free agency period falling during the entire month of May when the four current teams can re-sign players from their 2016-17 rosters and their draft picks.

Unrestricted free agency will begin June 1, followed by the 2017 NWHL draft in mid-August. Free agent registration is already available to prospective players who would like to be considered for an opportunity with one of the four teams. By the time the Beauts begin play this autumn they could appear drastically different. These pending changes do not halt Janiga’s thoughts on what the team is capable of.

“I am proud of everyone from this past season, and I congratulate all of my teammates who are retiring on their successful careers and wish them all the best in what they pursue next. Although not everyone from this past season will be returning, I believe we have strong players returning. Between the returners and the new players, I believe we can have a strong and balanced team next season.”

Janiga and I had a little fun with the interview too. The NWHL intends to include neutral site games during their third season, with the intent of garnering further interest and excitement over the league. There is also talk of league expansion within the next few years too. I posed a question to Janigaif she were the GM for an NWHL expansion team, which three players would she build her team around?

Emily Janiga – a GM Someday

“I would have to say ‘McLevman’Amanda Leveille, Kelsey Neumann, and Brianne McLaughlinbecause who wouldn’t want to build a team with them?”

The lovable trio of Beauts goaltenders and their off-ice antics have brought laughs, entertainment, and some great attention to the league and the team.

Janiga adds, “They (McLevman) have a good mix of character, knowledge, and humor, which would make it enjoyable to work side-by-side with.”

Maybe 15 or 20 years from now, Emily Janiga will be a first-rate NWHL general manager. In the meantime, she is one of the most up-and-coming exciting stars in this league. Look for her to increase her performance exponentially during the 2017-18 season.