The Boston Pride came back from a three-game losing streak tonight, and they did it in style, starting strong with a 5-2 lead at the end of the first period and holding steady against the Buffalo Beauts for a 7-6 victory. Despite a hat trick from Devon Skeats, the Beauts couldn’t rebound from the Pride’s early success. This is the highest-scoring game the Pride have yet played at home. Energy was high from start to finish, on the ice and in the stands. While attendance was the lowest of the three home games so far (likely due to a conflict with the Bruins game tonight, which also preempted broadcast on NESN), the crowd was enthusiastic, especially the small group of Beauts fans who had traveled south to cheer on their home team.
Up in the press box, I was also enthusiastic. “I want this to be a 20-goal game,” I said. “I want Hilary Knight to get six points.” Say what you want about the defense situation or the sad state of my note-taking by the end of the game (none of that is correct), this game was a blast to watch. “You get a goal, and you get a goal—ten people get goals!”
After the game, Pride players agreed that strengthening their play in the first period was crucial to tonight’s victory. Hilary Knight, one of the team’s two captains, praised teammates Rachel Llanes and Jillian Dempsey, who opened the game with two neat goals in succession by Dempsey off Llanes’s assists. “We came out hard, and that was key. Last couple games, we’ve given them one, two quick goals. Really wanted to tighten it up. We came and scored the first goal today… I think we built off that first period,” said co-captain Brianna Decker. Amanda Pelkey spoke of Decker’s leadership as the Pride worked to improve: “Decker talked about being committed, from the drop of the pick committed… That was our first focus, to start off well.” That commitment was evident on the ice today.
Of course, a high-scoring game signals issues with defense. Buffalo pulled Brianne McLaughlin after she allowed five goals in the first period and sent in Amanda Makela, who allowed only two more throughout the game. Lauren Slebodnick started in the net for Boston, but was replaced by Brittany Ott after Devon Skeats’ hat trick five minutes into the third period. Defense Kacey Bellamy said of the Pride’s performance tonight, “We still haven’t played a full 60-minute game yet. Throughout the game, we can’t let our lead close like that. But [the Beauts] played us tight tonight and it was a good challenge for us.”
Coming off a slow start, it’s a pleasure to see the Buffalo Beauts rise to that challenge. Skeats, who is this week’s NWHL Player of the Week, finished out the game with three goals and two assists for a total of five points. “We just came off our first win, so we wanted to bring that momentum back into this game,” she said of the Beauts’ preparation for their first game in Boston. “We know we can compete with every team in this league.” The Beauts played a solid game against the Pride despite missing key players, including Meghan Duggan (who coached Clarkson University to a win tonight), Kelley Steadman (who does not travel with the team, according to coach Ric Seiling), and goaltender Kimberly Sass (who is finishing her thesis). While the Pride had the momentum at the start of the game, the Beauts came back from a 1-5 disadvantage towards the end of the first period to lose 6-7 to the Pride. Skeats said that they’ll be focusing on a better first period in tomorrow’s game against the Whale.
What can we expect from the Boston Pride tomorrow in their game against the New York Riveters? A lot of energy, according to Pride players. “I think that we’re going to probably play better tomorrow,” said Pelkey. “It’s easier on the legs, in a way? Reverse psychology, I guess. You have the adrenaline even the day after.” Decker added, “We would love to play 2 games every weekend. It’s obviously a little more mentally and physically a strain on your body but they’re fun games to play in. We’re looking forward to tomorrow.”