The Buffalo Beauts had a very familiar face in the lineup when the team flew to Minnesota for a pair of games against the Whitecaps. Former defender Sarah Casorso – an Isobel Cup champion and a Beaut from 2016-17 into 2018-19 – signed a professional tryout offer to rejoin the team for at least the weekend of Jan. 11 and 12.
“I had been really missing hockey,” said Casorso, “and was keeping the door open for opportunities that would allow me to play again with some flexibility. But more than that, I missed the team experience. I had heard nothing but great things about the camaraderie the Beauts have this year and I was eager to be a part of the fun!”
With Buffalo battling injuries they needed to bring aboard either a top-four defender or a top-six forward before hitting the road. Including both games in Minnesota, six of the Beauts’ final eight games are away contests. Obtaining a seasoned blueliner like Casorso – hopefully for the long haul – is a blessing.
“Sarah is a solid defenseman and a classy professional,” said Beauts General Manager Mandy Cronin. “She was a great addition to our roster, and we hope we will get to have her with us more in the future.”
Getting to Skate With Old Friends
Although the Beauts have a very different look to them this season as compared to previous ones, Casorso still had the opportunity to reconnect with some “old friends”.
Buffalo captain Corinne Buie and goaltender Kelsey Neumann were teammates with Casorso in 2016-17 when the team won the Isobel Cup. The season after that, all three would be joined by Beauts sniper Taylor Accursi. Casorso, Buie and Accursi were all members of last season’s 2018-19 Buffalo squad.
“It was somewhat surreal but such a blast,” Casorso said about being reunited with the three veterans. “It was great to have some familiar faces in the dressing room. It definitely helped make me feel more comfortable and confident knowing there were a few people there that know my playing style and personality.”
Casorso’s totals from her previous three seasons in Buffalo came to 42 games played and 18 assists for 18 points in the regular season. The only goal that she has scored for Buffalo was a thrilling overtime game-winner in the 2018 semi-finals against the Boston Pride.
Working With the Younger Beauts
Buffalo has a very young roster. Not including the three players we already mentioned, the only Beauts with previous professional experience are goaltender Mariah Fujimagari (CWHL), forward Brooke Stacey (SDHL), and defender Meg Delay (CWHL). The remaining 16 players on the roster are all rookies.
A proven player like Casorso – and a leader in her own right – only further enhances the knowledge and the gelling of the younger bunch. She was just as enthused over getting to know the Beauts rookies as she was for seeing her old teammates.
“No other word but a delight,” said Casorso. “The girls are so genuine and a great mix of personalities. The first day I met them, many of them came up and introduced themselves and helped fill me in any way they could. And of course, hockey is a small world. There were many mutual connections from past teams from all over parts of the globe where we’ve played. I love meeting new people who share similar experiences.”
Tough Losses in Minnesota
The Beauts suffered two decisive losses in their annual trip to Minnesota. First came an 8-2 defeat on Jan. 11. That was followed up less than 24-hours later by a 7-1 loss at the hands of the Whitecaps.
Casorso was recognized by the Beauts coaching staff for her positive presence in the locker room in the midst of both defeats. To her credit, she also generated four shots on goal and was even for plus/minus.
Loss is not anything that Casorso hasn’t encountered and overcome before. When the Beauts won the Cup in 2016-17, they finished the regular season with a losing record of 6-10-1 and scored the least amount of goals in the league.
If anyone could attest to the fact that regular season losses are not insurmountable, it would be a player like Casorso. She was able to give reassurance.
“I just tried to be supportive and encouraging,” she said. “Coming into these games from the outside was a unique experience because all I was coming in with was my experience and observation, almost like through a coach’s eyes. I started to see the little things more often than when I was playing all the time and I genuinely wanted to help and give feedback.”
“Despite the loses,” said Casorso, “this team has the sticks to build a successful end to the season. I recounted for them the year we won the Isobel Cup. We struggled all season to get wins but when we found our chemistry in the last four games we were unbeatable. I see a real parallel to this team and the potential they have to finish off 2020 strong.”
Where It Will Go From Here
For the time being, Casorso has played her two PTO games and has not yet signed on with the Beauts for the remainder of the season. As Cronin spoke to, the possibility of signing Casorso is one that could significantly bolster Buffalo’s blue line.
At the completion of the weekend in Minnesota, the Beauts found themselves in an 8-game losing streak. With six games to go and the playoffs just around the corner, it is time for the Beauts to solidify and ramp up their game.
Casorso is a player that could help that come to fruition.
“This team is a family,” she said. “They support each other through the good and bad times, and have a great time while they’re doing it. I hope they find their groove and kick the rest of the season into a winning streak because they deserve it!”
General Manager of the Buffalo Beauts (NWHL). Hockey history writer “The Hockey Writers”. Credentialed media for the NHL Combine and 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships in Buffalo, NY, USA. Born and raised in Buffalo, NY. Lifelong hockey fan for over 40 years. Proponent of the women’s game.