By Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page Columnist
A little bit of “March Madness” came to women’s professional hockey in Buffalo on Saturday night.
The Beauts and Boston Pride were in overtime in the first home game in Buffalo’s playoff history. One shot would send one team to next week’s championship game, and it would send the other home for the summer.
Who would take that shot? Sarah Casorso of the Beauts.
“Maddie (Elia) gave me a perfect pass,” she said. “I knew the shot was there. I usually hit posts and crossbars. When I heard that ding, I thought the puck was in the corner.
“I looked over at (Colleen Murphy), and she was celebrating, and I was like, ‘Did that go in?’”
Indeed it did – for her first goal of the entire season.
“It was straight in,” Buffalo coach Ric Seiling said. “It went through a lot of bodies and the goalie didn’t see it. … She saved the first goal for the right time.”
Hockey’s equivalent of a basketball buzzer-beater lifted the Beauts to a 3-2 win over the Boston Pride. Buffalo won its 11the straight game in the process.
Everyone perhaps knew that this had a chance to be a classic. Cars were lined up outside of HarborCenter well before the game, as fans responded to the idea of postseason hockey in Buffalo (you may have noticed that it’s been a while for that next door). The building was close to being full. Although no attendance figure was announced, it surely set a team record.
“When we stepped on the ice before the game and the crowd was roaring, everyone had goose bumps,” Casorso said. “It was insane. It was what professional hockey should be. It was awesome.”
Neither side had more than a one-goal lead at any point. Sarah Edney opened the scoring for the Beauts in the first period with a shot from the right wing, but Jillian Dempsey answered for Boston two minutes later with a poke around the crease. The Pride took the lead in the second period as Mary Parker scored. The 2-1 margin held up through two periods.
At the end of the second period, we were down, and we weren’t playing Beauts hockey,” Carsorso said. “We came out in the third period with a vengeance. We wanted to make the city proud.”
Buffalo’s Corinne Buie scored the tying goal from close range at an odd angle, overpowering goalie Brittany Ott from close range. That came with 14 minutes and 18 seconds left in regulation and all of it was tense. Then it was on to overtime – Casorso’s favorite time.
“At university, in our third year, we played 10 overtimes in the season, and then we went through three triple-overtime games,” she said. “We ended up winning our conference and going to nationals. There’s a lot of overtime experience there, and it’s the most fun you can have. It’s sudden death, and you have to empty the tank.”
A couple of penalties called very late in the third period played a role in overtime. The calls were staggered, so the Beauts had a 22-second power play in overtime. It only took nine of them for Casorso to end the drama.
WAITING FOR AN OPPONENT
The Metropolitan Riveters (in New Jersey) will host the Connecticut Whale on Sunday night. The winner will play the Beauts next week for the Isobel Cup. That game would be in Newark if the Riveters (regular season champions) win, while it would be in HarborCenter if Connecticut wins.
Maybe we’ll have more madness at the foot of Main Street next week. But no matter what happens from here, it felt like the Beauts took a step forward in the development of women’s hockey in Buffalo on Saturday.
“When you get a crowd like that, you have to give them something to cheer about,” Seiling said. “The people who got a ticket tonight, you can’t tell me they weren’t entertained.”