A new addition to the Buffalo Beauts roster for the 2016-17 season, Shiann Darkangelo strutted her stuff Sunday night against her former team, the Connecticut Whale. Darkangelo might not have registered a goal, she earned two assists in her second regular-season game and was in fine form, buzzing around the defense and creating opportunities for her team all around the offensive zone.
The change has been a welcome one, despite the odd feeling of being back out on the ice with the Whale and former Quinnipiac University teammates (now on Connecticut), only for Darkangelo to realize she was playing against them.
“When you’re on the ice you’re not really friends, you’re just kind of battling it out so it’s good, [being] on this side,” Darkangelo said. “I think our team will thrive on hard work and outworking other teams. It was an exciting game.
“Everyone’s been really welcoming so far,” Darkangelo added. “The team’s been awesome. It’s been a smooth transition.
Darkangelo wasn’t coming into a team where she knew no one; she was familiar with several players from time with the U.S. women’s national team, such as her center, Emily Janiga. Even though Buffalo still needs to develop chemistry among the team as a whole, the team’s potential upside is high, as is Darkangelo’s.
While she showed moments of brilliance in Connecticut last season, the changes in coach and general management the Whale saw wreaked havoc among the team’s on-ice performance as the season wore on. Her role on and off the ice has changed a little with the move to Buffalo.
While she’s still a power forward, asked to go hard into the corners and create scoring opportunities for her linemates, Darkangelo has also moved into a leadership role on the Beauts, filling in a bit of a vacuum created by Meghan Duggan’s departure for Boston.
Steadman played on a line with Darkangelo and Janiga Sunday, which pitted two power forwards and three highly-skilled players against Connecticut’s top line.
“I started Steady on the third line to get her away from some other stronger players,” defensive coach Craig Muni told the press postgame. “Give her a little bit more ice time, ease her into the game. She hasn’t really been in any of the practices so [it was about] getting her ice time, her feet moving and ready. I felt that wasn’t working so I put her on the power – wanted to go head-to-head with them, with power – and it worked, so I had them spend the game together.”
The combination proved effective; Friday night against Boston the line of Darkangelo-Janiga-Buie was held pointless, and Darkangelo even spent two minutes in the box for interference. While Boston is known for its depth and skill players, Muni’s decision to switch out Buie for Steadman had a positive impact on Buffalo’s game overall.
“She’s obvious a leader,” Kelley Steadman said in postgame remarks. “She’s very vocal — she’s got a great shot, too. Good and strong. It’s fun to play with her. I’m glad we got to be on a line here for a while.”
Darkangelo has 2 points in 2 regular-season games, both of which she earned Sunday against Connecticut. She also took a spot on the Beauts penalty kill Sunday night, where defensive coach Craig Muni noted she can still improve, but was positive about her performance at this point in the season.
“There’s a difference when you have a big forward who can skate and play and a small player that can skate and play,” Muni said of Buffalo’s penalty kill, and his decision to place Darkangelo and players of her size on the special team. “When our taller players are out there they take up a lot more room out there. Their sticks are longer and they’re also in the passing lanes so I tried to go with the taller players that can skate.
“Shi’s been a very steady influence with our players,” he added. “She’s confident on the ice, she’s confident with the puck, she makes good plays. It gives her centerman, Emily Janiga, who’s new to the league, a chance to see somebody play with that skill and that caliber. Her game has come up as quickly as any of the new people. I think she’s helped everybody, as much as her own linemates.”