The Buffalo Beauts, like most teams in the NWHL, have signed six practice players for the upcoming 2016-17 season, some of whom are brand new additions to the women’s professional hockey scene. For those who have not yet familiarized themselves with the new roster, Morgan Beikirch, Jacquie Greco, Kelsey Neumann, Kayla Parsons, Ashley Vesci, and Hayley Williams have agreed to practice player contracts with Buffalo.
Morgan Beikirch | F | Robert Morris University
Beikirch is a Robert Morris University graduate, but left school several years before Vesci attended, graduating in 2008. Now 29, Beikirch is among the oldest practice players in the league, along with Maggie Taverna, a practice player defender for the Boston Pride. As a forward for the Colonials, Beikirch netted 24 goals and 33 assists in 110 games.
After graduation she attended SUNY Cortland where she was assistant coach for the women’s ice hockey team. Beikirch finished her graduate work in literacy at SUNY Geneseo in 2012 and has worked as a fourth-grade teacher since.
Jacquie Greco | D | Syracuse University
Greco, who graduated from Syracuse in 2013, was a tri-captain her senior season and an assistant captain the year before. Greco skated in 124 games for Syracuse where she collected 21 points (12 goals, 9 assists).
She was named to the CHA All-Academic Team two years in a row and spent one season on the Dean’s List as well. Although Greco typically played defense for Syracuse, she has a history of skating up when necessary and could fill in for Buffalo up front, should the team run into work visa issues again or suffer an unexpected number of injuries. She has the ability of a two-way player. A Buffalo native, Greco will also offer the Beauts that same hometown appeal that Emily Pfalzer has demonstrated time and again, which has helped drive attendance at both home and away games for the Beauts.
Greco will be a familiar face to new Beauts player Shiann Darkangelo, who spent two seasons at Syracuse before transferring and finishing her degree at Quinnipiac University.
Kelsey Neumann | G | SUNY Plattsburgh
Neumann played in net for SUNY Plattsburgh and Clarkson University during her college career. As a freshman, Neumann took the ice once for Clarkson, standing in net for a single game and posting a save percentage of 0.846, allowing four goals on 26 shots. She transferred to Plattsburgh for the following two seasons and was given three chances in net her second year at Plattsburgh for a total of 60 minutes and 54 seconds played.
At Plattsburgh Neumann faced 53 shots and allowed 9 goals, amounting to a save percentage of 0.830 and went 1-2-0. She did not play a third season at Plattsburgh.
Kayla Parsons | D | Norwich University
Parsons, a native of Fairbanks, Alaska, graduated from Norwich University in 2014, where she played 111 games and scored 68 points (16 goals, 52 assists). As a junior she was named to the ECAC East All Conference First-Team and CCM East Region Second-Team All American squad. Parsons played well at the Buffalo Beauts free agent training camp in June, skating quickly and demonstrating a strong, accurate shot, which earned her a second look and a practice-player contract from Beauts general manager Ric Seiling.
Ashley Vesci | F | Robert Morris University
Vesci, like Beikirch, hails from RMU and spent her senior year being coached by then-practice player Kelley Steadman. Steadman pointed Vesci out as a likely candidate for the NWHL last fall, pointing to her dogged determination to succeed as a strong fit for the team from Buffalo, who faced a season as an underdog candidate only to make it to the Isobel Cup Final.
“[Vesci] is the type that thrives in [difficult] environments,” Steadman told Excelle Sports. “If she were on a top team somewhere she wouldn’t be as motivated to play. I think, like some of the top players on our team, she was underestimated growing up and even maybe through college a little bit. She plays better when she has a chip on her shoulder.”
A position as a practice player — not a full-time Beaut — may indeed give Vesci the chip Steadman referred to.
During her career at RMU, Vesci scored 12 goals and 14 assists throughout 96 games. Vesci’s skills make a playmaking role a natural fit for her on the ice. With the loss of playmaking forward Meghan Duggan, Vesci may find a regular spot on her team’s lineup, as many practice players did in the inaugural season.
Hayley Williams | F | Buffalo Beauts
Returning to the Beauts is Hayley Williams, a member of the team last season who posted 2 points (1 goal, 1 assist) in 17 games during the 2015-16 season.
A fast skater and tenacious player, Williams is willing to go the extra mile in order to help her team out. She has a tendency to lose the puck too easily when going one-on-one against an opponent, which could explain why her contract was not renewed with Buffalo for a roster spot. However, her intangibles – a positive attitude and strong work ethic, which presents itself on and off the ice – make her presence on the practice player squad invaluable.