Boston Pride win controversial Game 1 of Isobel Cup

  1 2 3 OT TOTAL       1 2 3 OT TOTAL
Buffalo Beauts 0 1 2 0 3     Buffalo Beauts 5 5 10 0 20
Boston Pride 0 2 1 1 4 OT   Boston Pride 9 8 10 7 34

NEWARK, N.J. — As a rookie professional league, the NWHL is experiencing a lot of ‘firsts.’ Last weekend, they had their first playoff games.

On Friday night, the dropped the puck in the first game in the best-of-three Isobel Cup Final, pitting the No. 1 Boston Pride against the No. 3 Buffalo Beauts at the Prudential Center Practice Facility in Newark. The game was not without controversy.

Both teams struggled to find their bearings on the ice. The players appeared to have trouble keeping the puck flat and themselves upright throughout the game.

Despite the lopsided shot total, the Beauts kept up with the heavily favored Pride. Buffalo opted to shoot out high on Boston goaltender Brittany Ott and attempt deflections into the net. As for the Pride, they peppered Beauts goaltender Brianne McLaughlin with shots down low.

The first period ended with the score tied at zero.

Buffalo came out in the second period a different team, and not in a good way.

The Beauts has a persistent and physical forecheck throughout the first period. To start the second, it was all but gone. 

Boston took advantage at 1:29 of the second. Brianna Decker emerged from the penalty box and received a pass from Jordan Smelker. Decker skated right up to McLaughlin, hitting her with the puck. As Decker peeled off, defenseman Blake Bolden poked the rebound past the goaltender. Pride up 1-0.


Boston continued to control the game as the Beauts had simply stopped skating. The first period was fast and physical; the second was slow and boring, as dictated by the Pride. McLaughlin was called upon multiple times to bail her team out.

A little over 10 minutes after Boston’s first goal, the Pride made the Beauts pay again for their lack of movement. Inside the Buffalo zone, Amanda Pelkey passed the puck backwards along the boards to Zoe Hickel who moved it Gigi Marvin back at the blueline. Marvin dekes a couple times before sending a slapper on net that beats McLaughlin. Pride lead 2-0.


Either Boston took their foot off the gas or Buffalo woke up because the game changed.

The Beauts returned to the form they had showed in the first period. With about four minutes left in the period, Pride netminder Brittany Ott began facing multiple shots from the Beauts after her team played a significant amount of time with the puck.

Buffalo forced a turnover when one of the players poke checked a pass between two of the Pride. Freight train on skates, Kelley Steadman, picked up the puck in the neutral zone and tore through the Boston defense. The Beauts bat the puck around before a Shelby Bram gets a weird dribbler through the pads of Ott. The Boston lead is down to one goal.


In the final seconds of the second, the Pride nearly earned their third goal as McLaughlin juggled the puck up, over, and nearly into her net. Lucky for her, the puck hit the inside post right on the line and deflected out. Second period ended 2-1.

Buffalo had the Pride on their heels from the drop of the puck in the third. At 6:28, the Beauts captain, Emily Pfalzer, tied the game on a beautiful goal in stride down the slot.


Buffalo continued to dominate the Pride as the period went on. It felt like only a matter of time before the Beauts scored their next goal.

Sensing the same thing, Boston coach Bobby Jay called a timeout to talk to his troops. Jay was incredibly animated on the bench as the Coach’s Corner theme music played in the background. 

Whatever Jay said had an impact as the Pride pushed back, but perhaps a little too much.

First, Hickel was sent to the box for hooking. A minute later, Kacey Bellamy joined her on an iffy body checking penalty.

With the 5-on-3, the Beauts set up and went to work. Megan Bozek, credited with the league’s hardest shot at the All-Star Game, sent slapshot after slapshot on net. Yet it would be Kelley Steadman who would break through. Her wrister gave the Beauts their first lead of the game, 3-2.


Buffalo’s lead was short lived.

With Bozek in the box on a delay of game penalty, the Pride pounced on the power play. Bellamy got the puck on net and who else but Hilary Knight sent the shot past McLaughlin. Game tied 3-3 with 4:41 to go.


As has been the case much of the season, the officiating was uneven. For the remainder of the third period the zebras put their whistles away and the women got more physical. 

The period ended with the teams tied.

There was a lot of confusion as to what would happen next. The NWHL said they were using IIHF rules for a 20 minute overtime and then a shootout to determine the game. The league also tweeted it was to be played at four-on-four.

As far as we can tell, the IIHF rulebook doesn’t specifically state the man-power change. That seemed to be something done for World Juniors only, but we’ll have to look into it more.

Either way, it didn’t really matter.

A mere 2:29 into the overtime session, the game came to a stunning end.

It started with a penalty against Buffalo. A scrum that appeared to be outside of the Beauts crease was whistled down. Hailey Browne was penalized for “falling on the puck in the crease.” There is no real definitive look to it, but here is as close as we can get for now:


From what those of us sitting in press row saw, the puck was outside the crease and the call was iffy at best. If the officials felt it was that egregious, the could have given a delay of game penalty instead of what is the automatic result of the call on the ice – a penalty shot.

On the ice at the time of the penalty was probably the worst possible person for Buffalo in Hilary Knight. After about four minutes of discussion and everyone figuring out what the heck was going on, Knight lined up to take the shot.

Ever so effortlessly, she scored.


Boston wins the game.

The referees were his with a loud chorus of “BOOOOOOOs” from the crowd. One man in front of press row yelled – loudly – multiple times, “YOU WRECKED A GOOD GAME!” at the officials as they came off the ice.

The Pride are one win away from clinching the first Isobel Cup in NWHL history. The two teams will be back at it at on Saturday night at 7:30pm ET. Watch for FREE on Cross-Ice Pass.