By Budd Bailey

It’s not too easy for the Buffalo Beauts to receive much attention – especially right now.

Western New York’s women’s hockey team always has had trouble finding a niche in the marketplace during its relatively brief history. It’s not as if there’s a ton of money for marketing, and there’s no guardian angel lurking in the background to provide financial help (see NBA/WNBA for that comparison). Meanwhile, the mainstream media rarely spends much time on anything but the Bills and Sabres when it comes to local sports. For example, there probably was almost no way of finding out how Buffalo did in Saturday’s game unless you turned on a computer.

The Beauts know that. But this weekend seemed to be a particularly cruel one in the publicity sense.  The Bills are the 5,000-pound elephant in the room, sucking all of the oxygen out of the sports atmosphere. But the schedule still had the Beauts hosting Boston on Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a symptom of one of the league’s problem could be found in the staging of All-Star Weekend for the Professional Womens Players Hockey Association in Ottawa. Those players are staging exhibition tours around North America. You might remember that more than 200 players split off from the predecessor of the Premier Hockey Federation in 2019. We’re in Year Four of that dispute, which you’d think would be long enough to figure out a way to get everyone on the ice together. Nope.

Little of that was of concern to the Beauts on Sunday afternoon at the Northtown Center in Amherst. They were technically in last place in points in the standings, going 1-1-1 in the standings. “Technically” means that they had only played three games this season, while everyone also in the league was somewhere between five and eight in games played.

“We’re here to play some hockey,” coach Rhea Coad said. “We look at it as we’ve got more time to prepare.”

A split of the weekend series would be nice, but the Beauts had a more narrow object on Sunday: scoring a goal. Buffalo had been blanked 3-0 by the Pride on Saturday night. The team did score in the first period, and it continued to score for the rest of the game. The Beauts even rallied from a 5-2 deficit to tie the game at 5-5. But Boston had the last laugh, winning by a score of 7-5 to pad its lead in the league.

Under the circumstance, the Beauts were initially happy to get that first goal. Antonia Matzka’s shot from the point found the net. They hadn’t been able to solve Corinne Schroeder throughout Saturday night, and you could almost hear the exhale of the Buffalo players in the stands.

“It was definitely a relief to finally see that puck go and to know we can score on that goalie who has had some many shutouts,” Matzka said. “As the game went on, all of us had more confidence that we can get to the middle of the ice and shoot the puck. We’re good enough to keep up with them.”

The Pride, suitably upset, immediately responded with a couple of goals in the first period. By the time almost four minutes had elapsed, Boston looked like the best team in the league with a 5-2 lead. But then the Pride took a couple of penalties, and the Beauts scored two power-play goals in less than a minute. “We’ve got to move our feet and play fast like they do,” Coad said about her team’s play with the extra player.

And when Buffalo’s Emma Nuutinen got her first of the season with 10:35 left, all things seemed possible. But those hopes were doused when Jillian Dempsey completed a hat trick while scoring in a scramble in front of the net. Loren Gable added the empty-netter in the last minute to complete the scoring. Dempsey finished with six points to tie a league record; Gable added five on two goals and three assists. Yes, the Pride has talent. Coad points out that Boston – a traditional league powerhouse – always has had talent.

“They are a college hotspot – they have Providence, BC (Boston College), BU (Boston University), Harvard, Connecticut right there,” she said. “They have a lot of options.”

Matska finished with two goals – not bad for someone on defense. “I think it’s really awesome that as defenders we know that we’re supposed to shoot the puck,” she said. “That’s part of our gameplan. It’s great to be given that role and responsibility.”

From here, the Beauts head to downtown Buffalo’s Riverworks on Friday night for an outdoor game with Toronto. The good news is that the Bills moved their game from Sunday to Saturday night (and not Friday), and the Sabres are out West. So it’s not a bad time to some people to give them a look – although a parka might be nice to wear to do it.

“I hope it’s not as cold as the weatherman says (it will be),” Coad said. “We got lucky last year.”

(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has been involved in almost every aspect of the local sports scene for the last 40 years. He worked for WEBR Radio, the Buffalo Sabres' public relations department and The Buffalo News during that time. In that time he covered virtually every aspect of the area's sports world, from high schools to the Bills and Sabres and everything in between. Along the way, Budd served as a play-by-play announcer for the Bisons, an analyst for the Stallions, and a talk-show host. He won the National Lacrosse League's Tom Borrelli Award as the media personality of the year in 2011, and was a finalist for that same award in 2017. Budd's seventh and eighth books, one on the Transcontinental Railroad and the other about Ichiro Suzuki, are scheduled to be released in the fall.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *