NWHL playoff recap: Beauts force Game 3, Pride sweep Riveters (Video)

  1 2 3 TOTAL
Buffalo Beauts 2 1 1 4
Connecticut Whale 0 1 0 1
         
  SHOTS
  1 2 3 TOTAL
Buffalo Beauts 10 8 6 24
Connecticut Whale 8 16 14 38

It was win or go home for the Buffalo Beauts as they hit the ice down a game in the best of three against the Connecticut Whale.

Lucky for the Beauts, they got back in the lineup one of their most dangerous weapons – Kelley Steadman. The team’s leading scorer missed Game 1 of the series to attend to her job as the Director of Hockey Operations for Robert Morris University.

Steadman made her presence felt almost immediately as she and teammates sped down the ice. Whale goaltender Jaimie Leonoff came out far to challenge and Steadman managed to get a shot around her. Fortunately for Leonoff, Kaleigh Fratkin played goal and protected the puck from going in.

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Midway through the first with the score tied at 0-0, Steadman, who had a game high 8 shots on goal, pokes the puck behind Leonoff to give the Beauts their first lead in the series.

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Said Steadman of the goal, “It was just a great play by Shelby [Bram]. She read the defensemen pretty much perfectly and chipped the puck on the net. I was just able to get a stick on it.”

The best opportunity of the period for the Whale came on the penalty kill. Steadman turns the puck over to Connecticut while attempting a pass off the boards to herself. The puck ends up on the stick of the Whale leading scorer Kelli Stack. The forward gets two shorthanded shots on Beauts netminder Brianne Mclaughlin who makes both saves.

With seconds remaining in the first period, Kelly McDonald fires a shot at Jaimie Leonoff. The rebound comes right back to McDonald who makes a miraculous pass to Devon Skeats in front of the net. Skeats slams the puck home to put the Beauts up 2-0 to close out the first.

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The Beauts went on the power play 18 seconds into the second period as Skeats drew a body checking penalty on Fratkin.

Buffalo made quick work of the man advantage. Sitting at the point, Megan Bozek unleashed a blast that made its way past Leonoff.

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Five minutes later, the Whale finally got on the board. Kelly Babstock’s quick wrist shot beats Mclaughlin glove side. 

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The goal gave Connecticut the boost it needed. The Whale poured it on as the ice tilted heavily in their favor. Plus Buffalo’s parade to the penalty box didn’t make it any easier; however, the Beauts penalty kill, worst in the NWHL during the regular season, came up big stopping all Whale power plays.

“[The penalty kill is] communicating really well,” said Steadman. “They like to get shots from the point. They’ve got some pretty strong D, so communication and making sure we’re talking and switching.”

Yet it would be Mclaughlin who carried her team through the rest of the game. The Whale out shot the Beauts in the second and third period 30 to 14. 

With 1:58 to go in the game and the goaltender pulled, Hailey Browne scored the empty netter to put the game away for the Beauts, and forcing a Game 3 on Sunday.

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Playing three games in three nights is generally saved for the AHL when it gets to this level of professional hockey. 

What will be interesting to watch is how each head coach decides to handle their goaltender. Jaimie Leonoff and Brianna Mclaughlin played in the first two games of the series. We wouldn’t be surprised to see them again in the net on Sunday, but how long is their respective leashes?

The Beauts are hoping to get Megan Duggan back into the lineup after she finishes coaching Clarkson earlier in the day.

Watch the Beauts and Whale battle for the last spot in the Isobel Cup on Sunday at 6:00pm ET, for free through Cross-Ice Pass

– – – – – – – 

  1 2 3 TOTAL
New York Riveters 1 2 1 4
Boston Pride 3 3 1 7
         
  SHOTS
  1 2 3 TOTAL
New York Riveters 12 6 9 27
Boston Pride 17 20 15 52

Nana Fujimoto was back in net for the New York Riveters as they clung to hope their season would not end at the hands of the Boston Pride on Saturday night. Yet, for the second straight game, the Pride put up 50-plus shots on goal.

While in the New York zone, Amanda Pelkey passed the puck back to defenseman Gigi Marvin. All alone at the top of the circles, Marvin sent a slapper past Fujimoto to give Boston the 1-0 lead.

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Special teams played a huge part in the game as the referees were seemingly calling everything and nothing at the same time. Both teams combined for 16 minor penalties throughout the game.

Hilary Knight capitalized on the first power play of the game for the Pride as she deflected the puck past Fujimoto. (GIF says third goal, it’s actually the second)

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Having difficulty scoring at even strength, the Riveters decided to do all their damage on special teams. The first was a goal by Madison Packer while on the 5-on-3 to draw New York within one.

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Late in the period, Nana Fujimoto took a hit in the goal crease. She stayed down for a while and spent a couple more minutes talking to the trainer. She decided to stay in the net and continue play.

Emily Field received a charging minor for her part in the play. Brooke Ammerman took a cross-checking penalty in retaliation. A scant five seconds into the 4-on-4, Boston capitalized. Jillian Dempsey flicked the puck under the leg pad of Fujimoto.

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The period ended shortly thereafter with the Pride holding on to the 3-1 lead.

There was uncertainty as to if Nana would return to the net to start the second. She did, but only lasted 51 seconds. Blake Bolden netted the Pride’s fourth goal of the game on a feed from Zoe Hickel.

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Fujimoto was replaced immediately by Jenny Scrivens after letting in 4 goals on 18 shots.

The game for the Riveters should be divided into two segments: the time when Nana was in net and the time when Jenny Scrivens was in net.

Scrivens played in Game 1 and made an astounding 50 saves on the Pride. It’s cliche to say, but the team rallied around her.

But first, the game got weird.

Scrivens was out position as Hilary Knight picked up her second goal of the game while on the power play.

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 Gigi Marvin heads to the box to give the Riveters advantage. Marissa Gedman is hit with a high-sticking minor while there is still 12 seconds to go in Marvin’s penalty. 

With one second left on the 5-on-3, Kiira Dosdall earns the Riveters second goal of the game.

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By virtue of that one second, the Riveters stay on the power play.

Normally, that’s a good thing. But when you’re facing down the two headed monster of Knight and Brianna Decker, you are always at risk. 

Just 13 seconds after New York’s power play marker, Decker – like a high speed locomotive – powers through the Riveters defense and scores a shorthanded goal. (GIF says 6-3, it’s 6-2.)

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Surprisingly no penalties were levied against New York as they attempted to take Decker down.

Decker described the the setup to her goal not seen on the GIF, “Off the center draw, Hilary Knight made a huge play, a strong move to the net, and their goalie was a little out of position. Knighter hit it back to me after it went behind the net. She kind of spoon fed me there.”

Still on the power play, the Riveters took only 11 seconds to respond to Decker. Liudmila Belyakova (not Gabie Figueroa) somehow gets the puck past Brittany Ott to bring the score to 6-3.

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The game was physical but it ratcheted up another notch after the back and forth goal scoring. Scrivens continued to fend off the onslaught of the Pride as the period closed.

“Right now we have the upper hand. We’ve got to close it out here,” said Decker during intermission. “We’ve got a period left to play and we’ve got to stay focused. It’s getting chippy out there.”

Scary moment in the first minute of the third. Jordan Smelker took either a stick or a puck to the back of the head.

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She stayed down on the ice for what felt like an eternity for the trainers to get out to her. Smelker managed to get to her feet and skate off the ice to the bench.

She missed about four minutes of gameplay before coming out as part of the Pride’s first power play unit following a Celeste Brown body checking penalty.

The first shot Scrivens sees, she stops, and then havoc ensues in front of her crease.

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New York’s Sydney Kidd, who gets tackled in front of the net, and Gigi Marvin, who wasn’t involved in the fracas, went to the box.

We saw real teamwork as Brown (still serving out her minor) checked to make sure all of Kidd’s teeth were still there.

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Elana Orlando heads to the box before Brown can emerge to give the Pride a 5-on-3 for 33 seconds. Boston calls a timeout to set up the play, but it was all for naught. Shortly after the faceoff Zoe Hickel is sent to box for roughing.

The referees continue to call an inconsistent game. Appearing to be nitpicky at some point and completely blind at others, like this non-call:

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Perhaps as a makeup, the officials whistle Boston for too many men not too long afterward.

The Riveters go for broke by pulling their goaltender while on the power play. They’d scored with the two-player advantage before, so why not?

It worked. Celeste Brown netted her first goal of her NWHL career to bring the Riveters within two goals. 

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All four of the Riveters goals came on the power play. 

Alas, that would be all the magic New York could muster. With less than two minutes to go and their goalie pulled, Knight capped off the game with a hat trick in the empty net.

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And that’s all she wrote. The Pride punched their ticket to Newark for the Isobel Cup Final, March 11-13 at the Prudential Center Practice Facility.

As a postscript, hockey fans have to appreciate what Jenny Scrivens did, though. Came in cold with 2 goals against on 33 shots after a 50 save night.

Still no word as to if the Montreal Canadiens are attempting to trade for Jenny and give her husband Ben up in return.

(Major stick-tap to @NWHLGifs)

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