New York Riveters Fall After Fujimoto Injury

It’s been a busy few weeks. What did we miss from the Riveters? Let’s see… Ashley Johnston rocks the groutfit to end all groutfits, Taylor Holtze owns two ducks, and in a ‘Stars, They’re Just Like Us’ moment, Janine Weber and Kiira Dosdall rollerblade to the grocery store.

Oh, yeah, and the Riveters won. Twice.

Of course, I didn’t watch either of those games, which were both match-ups against the Boston Pride. It’s great to see the Rivs getting on the board and gaining some confidence—at some point I’ll hopefully come back around to take a better look at what their keys to success were, but for now, let’s look at the Riveters’ most recent game.

I trekked out to New York home ice at Aviator Sports & Events Center for the first time… and I don’t think ‘trek’ is the wrong verb to use. Coming from lower Manhattan to the rink in Brooklyn involved taking two subways and then hopping on the Q35 bus at Ave H, all the way out to Aviator. And back. Not, by any means, an insurmountable challenge, but definitely a solid hour and a half. A tip: the Q35 bus leaves from the Avenue H side of the Target, which isn’t quite at the actual intersection of Avenue H and Flatbush—I was a little lost until, like a beacon through the night, I spotted a girl in a Fujimoto jersey and followed her. Also, once you get off the bus, hope you’re with other Riveters fans like I was, because the route across the grounds of Floyd Bennett Field to Aviator is not particularly well-marked.

The game itself was exciting—plenty of shots fired off by both teams (36 by Buffalo, 28 by New York), resulting in a strong showing by all goalies. Both teams were held scoreless in the first, and while the Riveters looked less physically aggressive than they have previously, their play looked more organized than ever. In the early minutes of the second, the teams looked about equal—both Hanrahan of New York and Bozek of Buffalo had shots that looked inevitable, but just didn’t make it. It was the Riveters’ powerhouse Madison Packer, however, who lit it up halfway through the period. With the score 1-0 for the home team, the crowd seemed enthusiastic and the Riveters ready to take the win.

While it’s never 100% obvious what causes a team to lose their lead, it’s pretty easy to point to the collision with Fujimoto late in the 2nd as a major factor. She was visibly slow to get up from the run-in with a Beaut, and allowed two goals by Buffalo’s Devon Skeats in the first twelve minutes of the third. While many of the Riveters were dead-set on blocking shots with any part of their body they could, Fujimoto needed to get off the ice, and the coaching staff subbed in Scrivens (for the first time!) at the 13:30 mark. (Fujimoto was later helped off the ice, seemingly favoring one leg.)

Desperation seemed to get the best of the Riveters as the final minutes wore down, and their previously impressive play suffered, becoming less disciplined and coordinated. The defining moment of that issue came when Scrivens was pulled for an extra Riveters attacker and Buffalo managed to sneak an empty-netter with just seven seconds remaining. And that was it. In twenty-two minutes, the game went from a powerful Riveters team effort to a hard loss.

In the interest of making some sense of it all, let’s talk about plus/minus. Not real plus/minus, which I am not nearly enough of a fancystats person to use regularly, but a fake version which hopes to provide some clarity on the Riveters’ situation right now:

PLUS: The First Two Minutes – Spent exclusively in the Buffalo zone, the Riveters looked completely dominant and confident from the get-go.

MINUS: The Third Period – The Riveters have had issues in the final twenty before, allowing two Whale goals and four Pride goals in their respective first matchups. They’d seemed to have overcome that in the last two games versus the Pride, but it appears that their stamina issues aren’t over yet.

PLUS: Beth Hanrahan – I have in my notes that she was “doin’ God’s work,” by which I meant to say Hanrahan had a number of great shots and was working super hard consistently throughout the game.

MINUS: Celeste Brown – Now, this isn’t ‘real’ plus/minus, so I’m not saying that the Riveters are worse with Brown on the ice. With six of the Riveters’ twelve penalty minutes, however, I’m worried that Brown is becoming the bear to poke to draw a penalty from the Riveters.

PLUS: Madison Packer – Three goals in three games makes Packer the highest goal-scorer on the Riveters, and a force to be reckoned with. She’s 5’9, but plays like she’s 6’2, including almost-kinda leveling a linesman at one point.

MINUS: Dani Rylan – Stood directly behind me the entire second period, forcing me to anxiously cover my (only somewhat) critical notes with a sheet of paper like I was taking a sixth-grade math test. (This is a joke.) (Sort of.)

PLUS: Taylor Holze – Blocked shots like her life depended on it, moved like lightning around the ice, and got great shots off, including an amazing breakaway at the midpoint of the second period.

The New York Riveters face the Boston Pride yet again on Sunday in Boston, and then return home to take on the (UNDEFEATED) Whale on the 13th. I hope to see them taking less penalties and playing through the full sixty minutes without fading, especially because they’ve proved before that they can take the Pride. And as always… let’s go Riveters!

Buffalo Beauts Change of Scenery Works Wonders

A change of scenery looked to be just the ticket for the Buffalo Beauts, who finally know what the other side of the win/loss column looks like after beating the New York Riveters in a 3-1 comeback effort Sunday at Aviator Sports & Events Complex. Devon Skeats scored twice and Brianne McLaughlin made 27 saves in the first-ever win for the Beauts (1-4-1), while the Riveters (2-4-0) missed a chance to hit the .500 mark.

The Riveters came in strong, mounting a bit of pressure early on McLaughlin before Buffalo was able to find its own legs. New York’s penalty kill was put to work throughout the game (six minor penalties for 12 minutes total), and it did well, being aggressive up high in their own zone and pushing the Beauts’ point players to either make harmless passes to the perimeter or cough up the puck to them. The defense also made sure to clog up the middle of the ice and block plenty of shots (many of them by Buffalo’s Kelley Steadman and Megan Bozek). Nana Fujimoto took care of the rest, stopping 29 of the 31 shots she faced overall, including nice chances on Kunichika and Emily Pfalzer off Beauts rushes.

Madison Packer made it 1-0 with less than six minutes left in the second period, with a nice move around Paige Harrington to go high glove on McLaughlin. The goal came just moments after Buffalo believed it had scored one of its own; however, Fujimoto had been knocked over in the crease as the puck crossed the line on that play, negating any score.

Skeats and the Beauts’ forecheck worked in the third to erase all of the careful work the Riveters had done, and they did so in quick fashion. Skeats’s first goal, a high floater off Fujimoto’s glove, came with 11:45 to go, and 3:45 later, Kourtney Kunichika found her crashing in front again for the tiebreaker at the tail end of a power play. The goals came in the nick of time for the Beauts, who had been testing Fujimoto all night but were foiled either by her pads or by the shot blocking and efficient clearing of her defense.

Fujimoto left the game soon after; in her place, Jenny Scrivens made her NWHL debut in net and held up well in the couple of minutes she played, making four saves off of good pressure from Buffalo. While there is no official word of what happened to Fujimoto, multiple bloggers and viewers reported via Twitter that she was helped off the ice by teammate Ashley Johnston and a trainer, implying injury.

Scrivens was pulled with 1:45 remaining in regulation for the extra skater, but the Beauts held firm, and Hailey Browne put in an empty-netter with seven seconds to go for the final score.

The Beauts have little time to spare with celebrations; next weekend is going to be a doubleheader, with a game against Boston at Harvard’s Bright-Landry Center 7:30 p.m. EST Saturday and then a quick turnaround Sunday against the Whale at Chelsea Piers CT (a 4:30 p.m. EST puck drop). With an improved game against the Pride (and Boston now sitting at 3-3-0 in the midst of a three-game slide), plus this win, Buffalo is certainly raring to exact revenge.

Stay tuned for more on this and upcoming games, as well as the Beauts and everything NWHL.

Boston Pride vs. New York Riveters: Honestly, They’re All Historic Games

“How does it feel to win the first game of the NWHL broadcast on TV? Do you have family watching at home? Anyone have NESN?” I said to the Riveters players who had gathered for the press after Sunday’s game. Brooke Ammerman, Madison Packer, and Meghan Fardelmann, who scored the game-winning goal against the Pride, looked amongst each other with confusion. NESN is a popular sports channel in Boston, but its national reach is narrower.

Finally, Ammerman said, “Well, it’s good, because we didn’t win the first two historic games. I guess third time’s the charm.”

Third and fourth, it seems. The Pride lost to the Riveters for the second game in a row yesterday, going down 2-3 in a hard-fought game that kept everyone in the stands riveted from puck drop until the end of regulation. Ammerman and Packer scored the first two goals of game less than three minutes into the game and caged the Pride in their own defensive zone for most of the period, leaving the Pride scrambling to even the score up. Hilary Knight netted the first home goal for the Pride on power play while Elena Orlando served a two-minute minor for tripping, but Meghan Fardlemann put up another points for the Riveters less than a minute later. While Amanda Pelkey scored a power play goal for the Pride at the beginning of the second period, the Pride were unable to close the scoring gap.

The climate in the Bright-Landry Center throughout the second period and a scoreless third period was tense. A group of young players began to chant “Go Pride!” and another group attempted to start the wave. The crowd wasn’t only young girls and their families, nor Boston locals alone–adult Riveters fans from as close as my coffee shop and as far away as Mississippi were cheering for the away team as well. In women’s hockey, we spend a lot of time talking about the importance of athletics to young women and how awesome women athletes can be as role models, but let’s face it: those sentiments aren’t much of an audience draw. The Boston Pride’s home opener was fun. Even watching them lose to the Riveters was incredible.

Speaking of the Riveters: those players are fast. The team I saw outskated the Pride for the duration of the third period and rocked their two-way play throughout. They held out against the Pride’s incredible offense–many who have played together for years–and won with 14 shots on goal to the Pride’s 43. Sure, having Nana Fujimoto in goal was key to this win–all three of the Riveters I spoke to stressed her dedication, skill, and commitment in transitioning from international ice to a smaller sheet–but all of the Riveters players who hit the ice contributed to that win.

At the beginning of the season, the Pride seemed the easy favorite of the NWHL. Many of the players came over from last year’s Clarkson-Cup-winning team, the Boston Blades of the CWHL, and five are part of Team USA. Hilary Knight, the most visible face of women’s hockey for the past few years, shares the captaincy with Brianna Decker, who currently leads the league in both points and goal scoring. The two wins with which the Pride opened the league weren’t surprising. The last two weeks have upset that leading edge, though. As the team heads into their first competition against the Connecticut Whale, who are leading the league, undefeated after four games, the Pride’s prestige hangs in jeopardy.

Pride defense Kacey Bellamy echoed my own thoughts after the game when she said, “Obviously, we hate losing, but [the Riveters] beating us twice, it’s good for the league. It’s good competition.” It’s good TV, too. I’d certainly rather watch the Pride fight their way to the top than coast to an easy victory. Judging by the other game that took place on Sunday, in which the Whale narrowly pulled off a shoot out win after the Buffalo Beauts came back from losing 1-5 to meeting the Whale 6-6 by the end of the second period, the Whale won’t will be able to rest on their laurels for long, either.

I can’t wait to watch what happens next.

Buffalo Beauts Lose in Shootout, First for NWHL

Three shooters. Three chances to win. One goal is all it takes.

Unfortunately for the Buffalo Beauts in their first-ever shootout game (and the first-ever for the National Women’s Hockey League), that one goal came off the stick of the wrong shooter. Kelly Babstock scored the lone goal in the skills competition to lift the Connecticut Whale over the Beauts, 7-6, in a wild event at HarborCenter in downtown Buffalo Sunday night.

The Beauts had turned around a 5-1 deficit after the first into a 6-6 tie by the end of the second, on the strength of five unanswered goals (including two apiece by Kourtney Kunichika and Kelley Steadman) and a strong performance by Amanda Makela in relief for Brianne McLaughlin.

A key factor in the scoring was new captain Emily Pfalzer, who entered the game without a point and ended it with five assists and the first star of the evening. It was a sensational game for the diminutive blueliner, who showed poise and resilience in leading her squad to mount the comeback.

The Beauts also held strong without a key defender. Megan Bozek earned a five-minute major and was ejected from the game in a penalty-filled first period for Buffalo, for high sticking Whale forward Alyssa Wohlfeiler. In the ensuing five minutes, a 1-0 deficit became 4-0, as Babstock, Kelli Stack and Kaleigh Fratkin each capitalized. Then, after Steadman’s first (a shorthanded goal) made it 4-1, Jessica Koizumi put the cap on McLaughlin’s night.

Buffalo came out stronger in the final two frames. They took just two more penalties on the evening (as opposed to four in the first 20 minutes alone) and peppered the Whale’s goalie, Nicole Stock, with shot after shot, after she also came into the game to relieve Jamie Leonoff. By crashing the net hard and making Stock and the skaters in front of her scramble to regain control, the Beauts clawed their way back into the game, while also getting sticks into passing lanes and blocking shots in their own end.

They also thrived on the many power play opportunities given to them, scoring three on the skater-advantage; for their part, Connecticut scored four power-play goals of their own. Along with Steadman’s and Kunichika’s goals, Meghan Duggan scored her second of the year, and Hayley Williams had the first goal of her career to tie the game at 6.

The improved play on both sides of the puck paved the way for Makela, who came through with 15 saves on 16 shots, posting the best save percentage of the game for any of its goalies (.938). It wasn’t the most ideal situation for the netminder, but she was ready for her first action in net since joining her team two weeks ago.

“It felt great to be out there,” she said. “It’s really fun in a game like that, where there’s so many goals, and our team came back which was amazing.”

Of course, that meant she had to deal with the shootout, which was the first of its kind in the league. Makela said the team wasn’t too sure what the format would be if the game ended in a tie, but it was exciting to head into that kind of a situation.

“To go into a shootout is always fun,” she said.

It didn’t seem as fun for the shooters, particularly Kunichika, who stumbled a bit after posting her third and fourth goals on the year. Late in the overtime period, she missed a golden opportunity on an open net. Then, as the first shooter up for Buffalo (who elected to go first instead of second), she attempted a backhand-forehand move and lost the handle on the puck.

Kunichika credited nerves as part of the reason for her slip-ups, especially during the shootout.

“Knowing I was going first for our team was kind of nerve-wracking,” she said. “Even though I had a good game, it’s still hard to take the loss knowing I had the chance I had and that I had so much time right in front of the open net.”

Still, her performance and that of the skaters alongside her had the coaching staff pleased.

“It shows what we’re made of,” co-head coach Ric Seiling said. “We’re very proud of what the ladies accomplished tonight and how they responded. They could have buried their heads, but instead, the fans were out there cheering them on, we’re down three goals and they’re chanting ‘Let’s Go Buffalo’… That’s something that really motivates these players.

“I think after the way this year opened up with us trying to get everyone together on the same page, it’s starting to come.”

And coming together it is, albeit despite missing a piece of the puzzle. Just one game after joining her team for the first time, forward Erin Zach is rehabbing an upper-body injury and was unable to play Sunday (hence Steadman’s return to the lineup). There is no known timetable for her return.

This was a game full of firsts — first multi-goal game for Kunichika, first five-point game for an NWHLer (Pfalzer), first overtime and first shootout for the league — but not all of those firsts were positive. In addition to Bozek’s ejection, this game saw a serious injury to a Connecticut player. Forward Anya Battaglino attempted a pinch on the Beauts’ Devon Skeats, went head over heels and landed badly on the ice. Medical staff removed her from the playing surface on a stretcher. Nothing has been made public about her condition thus far, but stay tuned for any further information.

Overall, the ultimate takeaway is that the Beauts were able to make a statement and push the Whale to the absolute limit, but still have a ways to go to put together a full 60 minutes of play. They’ll get to figure that out on the road against the New York Riveters next Sunday during their first road trip of the season.

The Riveters are the only team the Beauts haven’t faced yet. Like Buffalo, they started out 0-3, but have pulled out wins against the Boston Pride twice in the last two weeks, largely on the strength of a world-class goaltender in Nana Fujimoto. They’re a bit of a lower-scoring team, with Brooke Ammerman (three points in five games) leading the way offensively. Still, they’ve found ways to win against a team with a loaded offense, which proves they can at the very least capitalize on mistakes their opponents make and limit any chances.

Still, the Beauts believe their chances are good against a surging team, and that this game proves they’ve taken another step in the right direction.

“I think we’re a similar team — gritty, physical, we work hard,” Kunichika said. “I think it’s going to be a good [matchup], very physical, as it was this game, so hopefully it continues to be close games.”

As for the prospect of the first road trip for Buffalo, players and coaches alike agreed this would be a good opportunity for the still-growing team to bond off of the ice. Makela said she was looking forward to getting to know her new teammates a bit better.

“It’s nice to have a few home games, but to get on the road, it’s a different atmosphere, different challenges you face,” she said. “It’s going to be fun to get out there with the girls.”

The Riveters host the Beauts at 7 p.m.  EST on Sunday, November 29th at Aviator Sports & Events Center in Brooklyn.

Weekend Preview: NWHL on NESN, CWHL

There’s been so much that’s happened this week! The NWHL All-Star Game was announced, we’re looking forward to the CWHL announcing their All-Star Game, the Riveters got their first win, and the NWHL got their first TV deal, among others. So, what can you watch this weekend?

CWHL Games

  • Boston Blades @ Brampton Thunder on Saturday, Nov 21 at 6:30 PM EST (Memorial Brampton Arena)
  • Calgary Inferno @ Toronto Furies on Saturday, Nov 21 at 7:30 PM EST (Mastercard Centre) STREAMED
  • Calgary Inferno @ Toronto Furies on Sunday, Nov 22 at 1:00 PM EST (Mastercard Centre)
  • Boston Blades @ Brampton Thunder on Sunday, Nov 22 at 1:30 PM EST (Memorial Brampton Arena) STREAMED

NWHL Games

  • Connecticut Whale @ Buffalo Beauts on Sunday, Nov 22 at 3:30 PM EST (HarborCenter) STREAMED
  • New York Riveters @ Boston Pride on Sunday, Nov 22 at 3:00 PM EST (Harvard Bright-Landry Center) STREAMED & NESN

The NWHL All-Star Game: It’s Happening

This month in the National Women’s Hockey League, team captains have been named, representatives to the NWHL Player’s Association have been voted in, and the Boston Pride’s TV deal with the New England Sports Network has been announced as the team gears up for their home opener against the New York Riveters on Sunday. Wow. That’s a lot. And we haven’t even made it to Black Friday, when the tickets to the inaugural NWHL All-Star Game will go on sale.

Buffalo’s HarborCenter will host the game during the weekend of January 23rd and 24th, 2016. Saturday night will feature a VIP Skate for the Stars; Sunday will feature a skills competition and a four-on-four game with two 20-minute periods. The Beauts’ Emily Pfalzer and Boston’s own Hilary Knight will captain the two All-Star teams, and the winning team will receive 20% of the profits from ticket sales. (To learn more about how your wallet is going to suffer in the name of professional women’s hockey, click over to NWHL.co.)

The press release issued this afternoon says that in early December, Pfalzer and Knight will select “11 of the 14 total players on their team from the full pool of NWHL players,” while fans will vote to fill the remaining two spots on each team via social media. Whether or not player selection means “press release” or “All-Star Draft” remains to be determined. Dani Rylan, you know what I want. What the people want. Put it on YouTube and give the last person to get drafted some Hot Wheels.

Buffalo Beauts comeback falls short, lose to Whale in a heartbreaker

The Buffalo Beauts had a full roster and the undefeated Connecticut Whale on the ropes all game, but all it took was a lucky bounce to make it unravel.

Danielle Ward’s pass-turned-shot bounced off of a Beaut’s leg and in past Beauts goaltender Kim Sass, giving the Whale the lead (and ultimately the win) with 55 seconds remaining in the game.

The goal came after the Beauts had peppered and pestered Whale netminder Jamie Leonoff throughout the third. In fact, statistically this was Buffalo’s strongest game, as they out-shot an opponent and held them to under 30 shots on goal for the first time this season (26-25), but some key opportunities on the power play and even strength failed to result in goals.

Ward’s lucky bounce also thwarted a solid 22-save performance from Sass in her debut. The East Amherst native played in front of a supportive home crowd (including two separate cheering sections), earning the first star of the game.

“It [the support] was amazing,” she said. “I had a list of about 25 people — friends, family, you name it, old coaches, old strength coaches, coming and watching, and it was incredible to see my name on posters out there.”

Buffalo had opened the game with its best period of hockey, getting the first two offensive chances of the game and keeping up with the Whale on both sides of the puck. The defense kept Connecticut’s shooters well to the outside, and Sass was equal to every shot that did get through. Meanwhile, the new-look top line of Devon Skeats-Shelby Bram-Meghan Duggan flew down the ice, creating plenty of opportunities. After 20 minutes, one got the feeling as though a Buffalo goal was imminent.

The second period wasn’t as kind to the Beauts, as a couple of defensive breakdowns led to Whale goals. Kelly Babstock started off the scoring by picking off a pass in the neutral zone and sending a shot high over Sass’s shoulder. Ten minutes later, Kelli Stack sent a bomb from the point through the five-hole with three Beauts hovering by the faceoff dot to their goalie’s right.

“The second period we definitely gave them too much time and space,” Sass said. “We had a couple of bad breakdowns, and unfortunately we put ourselves in the position in the third period to potentially lose to a bad bounce.”

However, the Beauts weren’t going down without a fight in the final period. Skeats scored a lightning-fast goal off of a rush for her first of the year, and then Hailey Browne threw one toward Leonoff that Kourtney Kunichika redirected to tie the game up at 2.

A slew of Whale penalties led to a couple of 5-on-3 opportunities that the Beauts could not capitalize on, and as frustrations mounted on both sides, play got rougher, resulting in Skeats, Duggan, and Ward heading to their respective penalty boxes late in the third.

“There’s a lot of pride in those players wearing that Beauts logo,” co-head coach Ric Seiling said. “They have a lot to prove, that they’ve earned a spot here, they’ve worked for it, and it’s just a matter of getting past the certain limitations there were before.”

Those limitations are, of course, the aftermath of having five players held out of games due to visa issues. Skeats, Erin Zach, Lindsay Grigg, Jessica Fickel and Amanda Makela finally joined the rest of their team, resulting in what Sass called “some jitters” upon playing as a group for the first time (especially considering their limited ice time together). Though the players have done their best to stay in shape with off-ice training, skating and going through the systems are another thing altogether, and it’ll take time for everyone to get on the same page.

Still, for Skeats, who had an immediate impact on the ice, it’s a learning process she’s said she is embracing, and her excitement after the game was palpable.

“I was going so fast, I guess I just shoved it top corner and it went in, and it was like, ‘Oh my God!’” she said of her first goal. “It was a long time coming. I was really looking forward to this game, and to be able to contribute to my team is a pretty incredible feeling.”

She, along with her teammates, will look to replicate that feeling and perhaps magnify it with a win next week, once more against the Whale. Considering how close they came Sunday, it can only be a precursor of things to come — and with more time together practicing, things will likely start to click.

“I think each game you’ll see us get better and better,” Seiling said. “The more time these ladies spend on the ice together, the more in-sync they’ll get.”

Puck drop is at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, November 22, at HarborCenter. Tickets are on sale now, and fans can also watch via live streaming on NWHL Cross-Ice Pass.

Weekend On Tap: NWHL, CWHL back in action!

NWHL

  • Connecticut Whale @ Buffalo Beauts on Sun, Nov 15 at 3:30 PM EST/4:30 PM CST (HarborCenter) Streamed
  • Boston Pride @ NY Riveters on Sun, Nov 15 at 7:00 PM EST/8:00 PM CST (Aviator) Streamed

CWHL

  • Les Canadiennes @ Calgary Inferno on Sat, Nov 14 at 8:15pm PM EST/9:15 PM CST (Winsport Arena) Streamed
  • Brampton Thunder @ Boston Blades on Sat, Nov 14 at 7:00 PM EST/8:00 PM CST (Boch Ice Center)
  • Les Canadiennes @ Calgary Inferno on Sun, Nov 15 at 1:15 PM EST/ 2:15 PM CST (Winsport Arena) Audio Stream
  • Brampton Thunder @ Boston Blades on Sun, Nov 15 at 1:30 PM EST/2:30 PM CST (NESC) Streamed

Ready for Anything: Beauts’ Steadman helping make history once more with NWHL

It happens pretty quickly. One moment, you see Buffalo Beauts forward Meghan Duggan making a cross-ice pass from the left side; the next moment, linemate Kelley Steadman has found a brief gap in the crook of Boston Pride goaltender Brittany Ott’s arm. Suddenly, she has her hands in the air, and the crowd at HarborCenter has leapt to its feet in jubilation. They’ve been waiting all game — two periods and half of a third — for this moment, and finally it’s come.

A goal. The first in the Beauts’ very brief history, coming at the 13:02 mark of the third period of Game One.

Duggan says something to Steadman as they both skate to the bench, but she says she can’t remember what it was.

“Probably something that had profanity,” she joked as she leaned against the wall of the tunnel leading from the Beauts’ locker room around to the corner of HarborCenter’s First Niagara Rink. “I don’t really remember those moments. You’re just so excited, it kind of goes in one ear and out the other.”

When it comes to being a part of history, Steadman has had a lot to be excited about.

The Buffalo Beauts practice forward has been helping make history since her days at Mercyhurst University, where she became the first Laker to represent the United States at the Women’s World Championship in 2011. After graduating, she took her talent to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, where with an incredible rookie class featuring Hilary Knight, Genevieve Lacasse and Anne Schleper (among others), she helped the Boston Blades capture their first-ever Clarkson Cup.

Now, as a member of one of the National Women’s Hockey League’s Founding Four teams, she’s got her name in the books as the Beauts’ first goal scorer. And to think she joined as a practice player.

“It’s a little overwhelming to think about all at once, but I’ve been fortunate enough to be on some great teams with great players,” she said. “It’s good that every once in a while I can contribute when I need to and when our team needs it.”

Contribute she has; in fact, Steadman leads the team with four goals and an assist in three games against the two undefeated teams thus far (Connecticut and Boston). In just under a month, she’s proven herself to be a constant threat on the ice, skating hard to the net, finding the rebounds and creating opportunities on a team still trying to find its offense.

“Steadman is a force out there on the ice,” co-head coach Ric Seiling said after the Beauts’ game against the Pride Oct. 25, a two-goal affair for the forward. “She’s a big part of this team.”

Steadman did have some experience with pro hockey coming into the NWHL, both stateside and internationally. After missing the final cuts for centralization of the National Team leading up to the Olympics, she set her sights on the then-new Russian Women’s Championship League, winning the 2013-14 European Women’s Champions Cup with HC Tornado Moscow Region.

“It was awesome,” she said of the experience. “It definitely took a while to get used to no one speaking my language besides a couple of people, but it was a great experience.”

It also took a while to get used to the style of play, which she says focuses more on “being smooth, doing your own thing” and less on the controlled systems employed in North American hockey.

“The level was pretty good,” she said. “It was cool to see a different style of hockey than what I’m used to playing.”

From Moscow, she made her way to Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, where she became a volunteer assistant coach with the Colonials, and then (along with longtime friend and USA teammate Brianne McLaughlin) joined the Beauts. This means a six-hour round trip commute for games and practices.

During the weekend of the Beauts’ game against the Connecticut Whale on Oct. 18, RMU had two games in Albany. Steadman got dropped off in Buffalo to play Connecticut on the way home. She says head coach Paul Colantino has been “really great” with regard to helping her continue to play overall.

“It’s a lot, but it’s not overwhelming,” she said of the work-life balance. “I’m one of those people who likes to stay busy. I don’t need a lot of downtime, and I love the game so it’s worth it.”

Her considerable workload is the reason Steadman didn’t sign on as a rostered player, meaning her pay doesn’t count toward the cap and she’s not obligated to play every game, but as she’s been granted the opportunity to play in the wake of visa issues for five of her teammates (something that seems to be getting resolved this week), she’s said going to take it and enjoy every minute.

“Honestly, I don’t know where I want this to take me,” she said. “I’m just enjoying getting to play with some of these players I’ve played with the last couple of years. For the team and league, I just hope to help continue to grow the league and get some of these little girls here in the stands watching us.

“Any time I get the call, I’ll be ready.”

Weekly News: NWHL captains, Four Nations outcome, Desjardins comeback

  • The NWHL has announced all their captains for the year!
    • For the Boston Pride, Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker as co-captains
    • For the Buffalo Beauts, Emily Pfazler will be the captain, while Meghan Duggan and Shelby Bram will serve as assistant captains.
    • For the Connecticut Whale, Jessica Koizumi has the C, and Kaleigh Fratkin the A.
    • The New York Riveters have Ashley Johnston, Madison Packer, and Morgan Fritz-Ward, but it’s not entirely clear yet how the captain/assistant captain assignments will work out.
  • The US won the Four Nations Cup, beating Canada in a tight 3-2 win. Check out the tournament results and what they might mean going forward over at Victory Press, and check out Along the Board’s careful looks at who were the best CWHL and NWHL players at the Four Nations tournament.
  • Kathy Desjardins, last seen in net for Team Alberta in the 2013/2014 season, is back for the Calgary Inferno! She took some time off to recover from some injuries, including a concussion and a broken collarbone, but is ready to take the ice again alongside the Inferno’s new acquisitions like Hayley Wickenheiser.
  • Rachel Koteen of 540 Films is trying to kickstart a documentry about the NWHL. As someone who remembers the documentary that Jessica Desjardins did about the CWHL’s Montreal Stars fondly, and as someone who loves insight into the little things that make a league or a team tick, I’m very excited about this! While the NWHL is not sponsoring the documentary, Koteen will be working with the league and the teams to get that kind of inside access to players and teams. $11 will get you a digital copy of the documentary when it comes out, and like all Kickstarter projects, if they don’t fund their goal, you don’t lose your money. So go check it out!
  • The Calgary Inferno will be playing Team Japan today November 11th, at 4:45 PM EST. Sadly, there will be no streams of any sort for this. 🙁
  • The regular season for both the NWHL and CWHL resume this weekend!