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NWHL

Pride Bests Beauts in Regular Season Finale

On Sunday, February, 28, the Boston Pride travelled to the shores of Lake Erie to take on the Buffalo Beauts. The HarborCenter played host to the final game of their regular season. With both teams secure in their playoff position, the strategy for the two teams was simple: play hard, fine-tune strategies, and most importantly, don’t get hurt.

The the teams played through a tentative first period, though no Boston-Buffalo matchup would be complete without an edge. Physical play led to a couple of penalties, but neither team was able to convert on the power play. The teams went to the first intermission in a scoreless.

The second period had a different tone completely. Just over two minutes in, Hailey Browne scored from the high slot with assists to Tatiana Rafter and Megan Bozek. Boston would not stay down long, when Kacey Bellamy lofted a shot that got through traffic and beat Brianne McLaughlin. Before the five minute mark, Boston scored again, taking the lead for the first time.

The special teams played a prominent role in the game, and Buffalo used a 5-on-3 penalty kill to sway momentum in their favor. The coaches gave the power play unit a shake-up, placing red-hot defenseman Megan Bozek on the wing. The risk paid off, and with her fourth consecutive multi-point game, Bozek put a shot on Pride net minder Brittany Ott, which popped up for the waiting Meghan Duggan, who picked the puck out of the air to tie the score.

Despite Buffalo’s success on the penalty kill and the power play, it was Boston whose power play was the difference in the game. With time winding down, the Pride scored, taking advantage of an open back door, and taking their final lead of the regular season.

The 3-2 Pride victory only really serves to make their inaugural season a little more impressive. While Boston may have been looking past this game on to the pending playoffs, Buffalo’s defense served up another impressive game.

The Beauts never let the game get out of hand, and it took a late penalty for Boston to finish the game without overtime. Buffalo also showed some creativity, revamping their power play unit to maximize offensive firepower. The team was missing the league’s second-highest goal scorer in Kelley Steadman, but were still able to convert with the man advantage, which was something they didn’t do consistently throughout the season.

Buffalo may have laid a decent blueprint for New York on how to keep Boston’s scorers at bay, all they while building confidence in their special teams, which will be important heading into the playoffs. If Buffalo has any chance at moving beyond the first round of the playoffs, they’re going to have to do it by shutting down the high-powered Whale power play, while scoring themselves with the man advantage.

The league’s inaugural season has come to an end.

Boston will head home to host the New York Riveters in the first round of the NWHL’s Isobel Cup playoffs. New York was able to defeat Boston twice in the regular season, so it will be very interesting to see if the fourth seeded Riveters can knock off the top team in the league. Buffalo will travel to Connecticut to face the Whale. The Whale are undefeated against the Beauts, but each of their games has been close. Playoffs begin on Friday, March 5.

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