The miserable weather in the Buffalo area Sunday afternoon perfectly mirrored the outcome at HarborCenter, as the New York Riveters rolled over the Buffalo Beauts, 7-3. Meghan Fardelmann scored a hat trick, and Janine Weber and Lyudmila Belyakova scored two apiece, while Nana Fujimoto made 32 saves.
Buffalo iced just 12 skaters against the Riveters, as those with commitments to Team USA — Emily Pfalzer, Meghan Duggan, and Megan Bozek — were at evaluation camp for the Women’s World Championship. Shelby Bram was also away due to playing with Team Canada at the Nations Cup in Europe, while Kelly McDonald sat out for reasons unconfirmed (but potentially injury-related).
Head coach Shelley Looney also had to juggle her lines as a result, placing three forwards — Jessica Fickel, practice forward Annmarie Cellino, and Tatiana Rafter — on the blueline. While they did as well as they could have, jumping into play and moving the puck well in transition, there were momentary lapses in play where New York was able to thread through both defenders and score quickly, illustrating just how important both Bozek and Pfalzer are to this Beauts squad.
“We had [Lindsay] Grigg and Paige Harrington, our two D, running every other shift, and the three forwards basically rotating through that second slot,” Cellino said. “I noticed my legs were pretty much gone at about 10 minutes into the second period. Once you got that rest in the intermission, that was huge.”
The first period was relatively tame, unless you count the shower of stuffed animals from the stands after Buffalo scored its first goal for the Teddy Bear Toss, benefiting a local charity. Janine Weber had turned on the jets and burned two Beauts on her way to her first goal of the season, to put the Riveters up 1-0. But a couple of minutes later, Kelley Steadman responded with her own solo effort on the power play, tallying her seventh and making it rain fur over the glass. A late goal by Meghan Fardelmann put a damper on the Beauts’ good vibes, however, and they ended the first frame down 2-1.
The second period was all Riveters. Belyakova led the charge with her two goals (also her first two of the year) as New York pulled away, scoring three straight and chasing Brianne McLaughlin from the net for the third time this season. Fardelmann scored again as well, as New York took advantage of a depleted and tired Beauts defense, rushing hard and crashing the net on both McLaughlin and her reliever, Amanda Makela. The two teams also got increasingly physical, with at least one of Belyakova’s goals coming at the tail end of borderline interference calls.
A shot by Kourtney Kunichika banked off either Fujimoto or her defender, Gabie Figueroa, to make it 5-2 before the second intermission started. But by this point, with the Beauts running out of steam, another comeback seemed unlikely.
In the third, the Beauts were able to get back on par with the Riveters possession-wise, but only one more goal — a backhand floater by Devon Skeats — found its way past Fujimoto. Fardelmann completed her hat trick, earning herself the second star of the night (behind Steadman, the teddy bear goal scorer). Makela finished her evening with 15 saves.
Steadman and McLaughlin both steered clear of using the short bench as an excuse for the outcome.
“We just didn’t have it tonight, which happens,” Steadman said. “We can’t really blame it on people not being here because if you look at their roster, their talent level is pretty similar to what our talent level is here.”
Undoubtedly, it has been a story of slow starts and inconsistencies on both sides of the puck for the Beauts. That being said, not having your top blueliners on the ice would hurt any team, to say nothing of one with an already-thin defensive corps.
McLaughlin mentioned there was “a little more talking, a lot of — not yelling at each other, but yelling in a positive way, where to be, trying to trust people will be in the right spots.
“Every game we play is a different roster, unfortunately, for us, and the same with today, so we’re getting used to that, at least,” she continued.
Getting used to it hasn’t been easy for the Beauts goalie, however; she’s borne the brunt of the Beauts’ struggles all season, and Sunday’s game was no different. She had to fight through odd-man rushes and screens galore, finishing with five goals allowed on 22 shots. But she remained upbeat, saying, “You kind of have to have a sense of humor about it.
“We all just have to go out there and do our jobs. For me that was the hardest part, just trying to figure out where everybody is, and finally I just shrugged it off and said, ‘I’ll just play my game and whatever happens, happens.’”
The Beauts will have another chance to make things happen in a positive manner Jan. 3 against the Boston Pride. Puck drop is set for 3 p.m. at Harvard’s Bright-Landry Center.