Todays SlapShot

NWHL

Beauts’ McLaughlin bridges gap between old and new

Brianne McLaughlin in net for Buffalo at NWHL Buffalo Beauts at Connecticut Whale, Feb. 7 2016. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini

On July 31, the Buffalo Beauts announced that former US National Team goaltender Brianne McLaughlin would be returning to the HarborCenter for the team’s second season.

McLaughlin and the Beauts had a veritable roller coaster of a season. The first half of their inaugural campaign was largely forgettable, with the team going nearly two straight months without a point in the standings. McLaughlin herself shouldered a lot of the blame for the team’s performance, taking some of the pressure off of her younger and less experienced teammates.

It was noble of McLaughlin to take responsibility for what were clearly issues that involved the entire team. In the first three games alone, McLaughlin faced 45 shots per game.

The team played with only four rostered defensemen through those three games, and were missing key forwards, as well. Despite the off-ice logistics issues, McLaughlin made no excuses for the team’s performance, instead choosing to focus on improving.

This steadfast commitment was on full display in the second half of the season and in the playoffs. McLaughlin put the Beauts on her shoulders in their first playoff series, shocking the women’s hockey world by doing something they hadn’t done all season: defeating the Connecticut Whale. Twice.

When asked about the best parts of their first season, McLaughlin’s response is bittersweet, but this victory stands out. “There were so many moments that were so cool to be a part of within the league,” she says.

Her favorite moment? “Playing in the Isobel Cup playoffs was obviously amazing but winning is way more fun than losing, so I’d say winning game three against Connecticut to take us to the Finals.”

Buffalo’s early woes could easily stem from a lack of playing time together. General manager Ric Seiling worked hard to ensure this would not be an issue for his team in their second season. Despite returning only eight of 17 players from Buffalo’s inaugural team, Seiling was careful to select players who had experience with each other in the past.

Defenseman Lisa Chesson is among those players, and she and McLaughlin are former teammates on the US National Team.

McLaughlin is glad to have that familiarity. “It has been a little while since I’ve been able to play with Lisa Chesson!  She plays with confidence, keeps the game simple, and is a hard person to play against. That’s always nice to have in front of you,” she said of the Olympian.

Brianne McLaughlin-Bittle warms up at Buffalo Beauts vs Boston Pride NWHL. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini

McLaughlin and new-look Beauts excited to get started. Photo credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini

Melding the old with the new seems to be something McLaughlin has been focused on in the offseason – not just in regard to her teammates, but also with her training.

Staying ahead of the curve is important for someone in her position. “The game is always changing and I took some time to learn all of the new things that are hard to implement when your season is in full swing. Hopefully I will have them all down before the season starts!”

The goaltender is anxious to get the season started. Returning players have expressed that there is unfinished business to tend to, and McLaughlin echoes that sentiment. “Coming so close to something so great and coming up short is hard for any athlete,” she explained. “As cool as it was to get there when no one thought we could, it left us wanting more.”

The tumultuous season also left fans wanting more. There is an air of excitement surrounding opening weekend, from both players and fans.

McLaughlin herself is most excited to just get back on the ice. “I’m just excited to start another season! Any opportunity to put the pads on with all of my friends is pretty much my happy place so life is good!”

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