In a rematch of the 2016 Isobel Cup Final, the Boston Pride took the ice against the Buffalo Beauts and relived history, hammering Buffalo with shot after shot. Although the game was a very even match in the first and third periods, with the Beauts utilizing their defense to generate offense, the second period saw Boston flood Buffalo’s defensive zone and put up four goals, practically back-to-back.
The key to Boston’s offensive push was their tremendous depth at even strength. Although their penalty kill came close a few times to letting Buffalo tip one in past Ott’s doorstep, the foursome held Buffalo back with great passing and sophisticated zone exits.
“That team that they have on the ice tonight is a pretty good team,” said Buffalo’s coach and general manager, Ric Seiling. “They’ve played a lot together and spent a lot of time together, not only as the Pride but also as the U.S. team. Can’t take anything away from them.
“We tied the first period, no score, lost the second four-nothing and won the last one, one to nothing,” Seiling added. “I thought that was a step in the right direction. The girls, they didn’t quit. It’s evident we do have some things to work on.
“Where we struggled was our five-on-five. It’s about getting to know one another. That’s the learning process when you’ve got new people and you’ve only been together for less than a month.”
Boston, down one Hilary Knight, still managed to show its breadth of skill and depth, with all four goals coming from four different players. Alex Carpenter opened the floodgates with a wrister from out between the dots, quickly followed by shots from the same general area by Jillian Dempsey and Amanda Pelkey. Rachel Llanes’s lone goal was a tip-in off a rebound.
Buffalo’s defense sat back and gave the Pride too much room in the second, which Seiling noted as an issue Buffalo faced last season as well, only this time he attributed it to the newness of some of the defenders, though some, such as Anne Schleper, were added not only for their Team USA pedigree, but their scoring prowess as well. That as Seiling said, may simply be a matter of time and chemistry.
“We had some new people back there and I think they were a little leery of [Boston’s] speed and the way they were coming at them,” Seiling said. “Anybody that’s played defense, your tendency in front of speed is to back up. Last year we struggled to get our D to step up as well, take up time and space. It’s a learning process. For some of these girls, it’s their very first professional game. Now they know what level of play they have to be at in order to be effective.”
The third period saw stiff, even competition once more, and a satisfying ending note for Buffalo fans despite the lopsided loss.
Harrison Browne, who came out earlier in the day as a transgender man, scored Buffalo’s first – and thus far only – goal of the season. Browne grabbed the puck and took off on a breakaway, where he sped past the defenders and waited out Brittany Ott, putting it past her blocker-side.
“It was unreal,” Browne said about his goal, and in particular about the crowd’s loud, positive and vocal reaction to seeing Browne score for his team and his adopted city. “It’s awesome. I wish it would have come as a game-winning goal or something like that, but it was great to hear my name — again — on the P.A.”
And hearing his correct pronouns on the P.A.?
While the game sheet might indicate a rout to readers, the product on the ice was better than last season and the game was a strong one, with a lot of back-and-forth between Boston and Buffalo. League commissioner Dani Rylan noted the improved product in a postgame scrum.
“I think tonight was a great show of talent. The level of play on the ice has increased dramatically from our first season and we’re excited about that. We’ve also evolved our player safety committee and so we’re looking forward to the competition on the ice.”