By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Columnist
It’s been an unusual couple of days for the Buffalo Beauts.
It started on Friday night, when word went out that the Beauts had decided to fire two members of the coaching staff, head coach Ric Seiling and assistant coach Craig Muni.
This was surprising for a couple of reasons. First, the Beauts were coming off a season that saw them reach the championship game. Buffalo was 3-3 so far in the 16-game schedule for 2018-19 – six points behind Minnesota and four back of Boston. The Beauts have a 1-3 record against those two league leaders this season.
Second, the timing was a bit odd. Since the Beauts play on weekends, the switch was made on short notice. Think of the Bills firing their head coach and top assistant on a Saturday night, and you’ll get the idea.
Speaking of surprises, veteran Rochester Americans announcer Don Stevens got one Friday night when he was doing the broadcast of the Amerks’ game with Seiling. Stevens pointed out that Seiling had taken time off from his job with the Beauts to do color commentary for the AHL team. Seiling pointed out that he had been relieved of his duties with the National Women’s Hockey League team earlier in the day. Yes, it was as awkward as you’d think it was.
Cody McCormick was named as the team’s interim head coach. The former Sabre had been working with the Academy of Hockey in HarborCenter, and had done some work with the Beauts in skills practices. McCormick is expected to hold the job for the rest of the season. From there, well, we’ll see.
“I am so honored and excited about the opportunity to lead such a amazing group of players and most important amazing individuals,” McCormick tweeted after the move was announced. “The work is just beginning and I’m ready for the challenge ahead!”
Old job, new job
Meanwhile, general manager Nick Fattey added the title of assistant coach, at least for the time being, to his list of responsibilities. That’s a rare combination; it’s tough to know if the head coach is taking or giving orders in a given moment. Ryan Vinz stayed on as the goaltending coach.
The Beauts had signed some good-sized names leading up to the start of the season, such as goalie Shannon Szabados. As you could guess, that sort of effort is accompanied by expectations. Apparently, Seiling and Muni didn’t meet them.
“It was my decision,” Fattey said in a new conference a little more than an hour before Saturday night’s game. “It was a hockey decision. It was one where I looked at our record and felt we could be better.
“We have world class talent on this team. We have a winning organization. We have been to the Finals in each of our first three seasons. We want to win as many games as possible so we could bring the Finals to Buffalo. Nobody likes playing against us when they come to Buffalo.”
Just to add a little more fun to the situation, McCormick had another commitment on Saturday night. Fattay served as the head coach in his place.
On the ice …
Despite the odd situation, the Beauts had a couple of advantages in Saturday night’s game. They no doubt were happy to be home. Buffalo had played five of its first six away from HarborCenter. Saturday’s game would be the first of six straight contests at home, a stretch that could give them a boost in the standings. If you need to give a team some energy with a coaching change, that’s not a bad time to do it – even if a little more notice might have been appreciated.
And Connecticut was a good opponent under the circumstances, since Buffalo had beaten them two straight earlier in the season by a combined score of 11-0.
The Whale did figure out a way to score for a change. Connecticut tallied the only goal in the second period while getting outshot, 17-5. But Buffalo did enough scoring around that score to come away with a deserved 3-1 win. Julianna Iafello, Hayley Scamurra and Emily Janiga had the Beauts’ scores. Fattey was quite happy at the end of the day.
“Players are excited; they responded,” he said. “They played great. … The systems came together. They did a great job defensively. We gave up a goal, but it was a fluky goal. I’m really excited for the team. They played outstanding.”
Buffalo has three weeks to get ready for its next two games. Minnesota comes to town on Dec. 29-30, with the first game slated for the KeyBank Center.
And when those games are over, we’ll have a better answer as to whether this weekend’s commotion was worth it.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)