Womens Hockey

Beauts unable to overcome early miscues against Whale

Sam Faber guides the puck around Buffalo's net. Also pictured: Amanda Leveille. Connecticut Whale at Buffalo Beauts, October 9, 2016. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini
Kaitlin S. Cimini/Today's Slapshot

BUFFALO, N.Y. – In another classic Buffalo/Connecticut matchup, the Beauts dropped a 7-5 decision to the Whale. Connecticut scored four goals before the first five minutes of the game had passed, pinning the Beauts in their defensive zone and effectively ending Amanda Levielle’s second start of the season.

“If you’re not prepared – if you’re not ready to start the game, that’s what happens,” Beauts’ coach Ric Seiling said after the game. “If you take away the first five minutes, technically we’d have won the game by three.”

Forward Emily Janiga echoed Seiling’s sentiments in the postgame press scrum. “We can take this game as a learning experience. Obviously, we’re not happy with the loss and the first five minutes were not expected. We were not ready. We weren’t moving our feet, we weren’t connecting on passes.”

Poor starts have haunted the Beauts in the early going of the 2016-17 season. Buffalo has now been outscored 6-2 in the first period and 8-3 in the second. More than half of their goals have been scored in the third period.

Buffalo’s lone win of the season was a come-from-behind victory against the Whale – the only time they have had a lead in four games.

Depth scoring was an issue for the team in their inaugural campaign, and it is haunting the Beauts again. Buffalo is averaging only three goals per game, tied for worst in the league with the Riveters.

Their top six forwards account for 10 of the team’s 12 goals – an astounding 83 percent of the Beauts’ production. Only one of Buffalo’s five goals against the Whale on Sunday came from a depth player, and that forward (Corrine Buie) has also spent time on Buffalo’s top line.

Buffalo’s lack of scoring could be attributed to several things, among them is an offensive system that seems to keep the puck to the outside in an attempt to generate shots, but unfortunately, there is rarely any traffic around the goaltender and saves are easily made. Shot selection also suffers – while a preferred shot would be low and hard, causing the goalie to make a pad save and kick out a rebound, Beauts’ shots often end up in the crest of the netminder, where the puck is trapped and frozen.

Perhaps the best explanation for the Beauts’ scoring issues, though, is a diminished number of shot attempts.

Sunday’s tilt against the Whale marked the only time in the season that Buffalo has managed more than 20 shots on goal – in fact, the Beauts led the Whale in shots, 28-23. This uncharacteristic flurry caused problems for Connecticut’s Shanae Lundberg, who appeared to have trouble controlling the puck throughout the game.

Coming out onto the ice for the second period, the Beauts were able to take advantage of Lundberg’s mishandling of the puck, and slowly climbed back into the game. Though Buffalo failed to score on four power play chances, the team held the zone very well. Again, a lack of shots and a lack of traffic kept the power play units off of the scoreboard.

“Connecticut did a very good job keeping our shots to the outside,” Janiga said, identifying Buffalo’s main issue with the extra attacker. “We were moving the puck well and kept possession pretty well, but we have to find a way to get pucks through and on net with traffic in front of the goalie.”

The league now heads into a two week break while National team players gather to compete in the Four Nations Cup. Janiga is confident the break will be good for the Beauts. “As a team, we need to keep our minds set on the games in two weeks, and take advantage of the times we do have off. We’ve got to stay healthy and stay positive. We have two big games coming back .”

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