As the NWHL’s free agency period came to a close, a flurry of activity occurred. General managers and players alike were scrambling to finalize terms before the July 31 deadline. In that mad dash, Ric Seiling and the Buffalo Beauts signed seven players during the final weekend. Former University of New Hampshire forward Kristina Lavoie was among the illustrious list of players who signed with the Beauts as the eleventh hour approached.
Lavoie attended Buffalo’s free agent camp, which was held at the HarborCenter on June 24-26. The Ontario native was anxious coming out of the camp. “I thought I had a really good camp and I was hopeful to hear back regarding an offer,” she said. “I was overjoyed to receive the email saying I made the team.”
Seiling and co-coach Craig Muni both stated they were impressed with Lavoie at the free agent camp. They agreed that her playmaking ability is her biggest asset.
When asked Lavoie and what stood out at camp, Muni responded, “Kristina adds some more size and strength in some of the critical areas of the ice, while adding a soft touch with keen passing and finish around the net. Her versatility to play either wing is also a big plus.”
Seiling echoed Muni’s observations. “It is hard to find at any level a player who can saucer a backhand pass…Defenders think they have you when on the back hand, but not her [Lavoie.]”
Kristina herself agrees with her new coaches. When Today’s Slapshot approached Lavoie about her biggest strengths, she answered, “My ability to make plays and see how plays develop.”
Lavoie graduated from UNH in 2013, and was a heavy contributor in all four seasons for the Wildcats. She had 108 points (57 goals, 51 assists) in 134 games, which included 16 power play goals. Her most productive season came in her junior year, where she scored 18 goals and added 15 assists for 33 points.
This kind of balanced scoring is precisely what Seiling has been looking for as he’s built the future versions of the Beauts. Buffalo signed 2015 draft pick Emily Janiga, who finished her college career with 72 goals and 79 assists, and also chose Clarkson Golden Knight Cayley Mercer in the second round of the 2016 draft. Mercer has 25 goals and 25 assists in NCAA hockey.
Lavoie has familiarized herself with the roster, and she’s anxious to get started.
“I’m excited to get to know everyone on the team. I have looked up the roster and recognize a few names. I’m excited to have a chance to play with what seems to be a truly elite group of players,” she said, and continued; “I’m really excited to a Beaut and continue playing hockey at this high level.”
Lavoie will remain in Fonthill, Ontario, and will commute for practices and games. When asked what she’s most excited about, she was quick to reply, “I’m looking forward to playing at the HarborCenter in front of the amazing fans in Buffalo.”
Lavoie will definitely give the fans a lot to cheer about. The deadline acquisitions of players like Shiann Darkengelo have certainly increased the Beauts’ scoring acumen, and a playmaker like Lavoie adds to the talents of Darkangelo and Kelley Steadman. It is difficult to say where she might fit in with Buffalo – the solid line of Hailey Browne, Kourtney Kunichika, and Devon Skeats is likely locked in. The top line will likely feature Darkangelo and Steadman, and is short a center; Lavoie generally plays on the wing.
With the season starting October 7, training camp is likely to begin in the next month. So many of the 2016-17 Beauts are new faces that it is difficult to discern who will fall where. Once camp begins, Lavoie’s place in the lineup will become much clearer. Until then, the powerful playmaker is just happy to have found a home.