NWHL Isobel Cup Final Preview: Boston Pride v Buffalo Beauts

NWHL Isobel Cup Final – Sunday 19th March
Boston Pride vs Buffalo Beauts
Nsongas Center, UMass Lowell 6pm EDT 10pm GMT
Watch: nwhl.zone, abcnews.com

Probably not the final many were expecting, but a final that should be entertaining nonetheless, as the top seeded Boston Pride take on the surprise outfit, the Buffalo Beauts, for the second successive year, to take home the Isobel Cup.

Route to the final

Boston Pride 8 2 New York Riveters
Boston Pride Buffalo Beauts
Connecticut Whale 2 4 Buffalo Beauts

Boston made light work of the Whale on Thursday night; Alex Carpenter’s 2+3 saw them comfortably progress (read the recap here). Buffalo, on the other hand, caused quite the upset; goalie Amanda Leveille posted a .944 save percentage, saving 34 of 36 shots, while at the other end the skaters converted four of twelve shots to book their place (read the recap here).

And so we get a repeat of last year’s final. A best-of-three last year, an overtime win in game one and a 3-1 victory in game two saw the Pride take the series 2-0 and be the first name on the trophy. Will history repeat itself?

Key players

Boston

Alex Carpenter

Her 2+3=5 performance on Thursday was no fluke. Carpenter has a league-leading 20 assists this year. Her performance should be no surprise, though. The 23-year-old left school as Boston College’s career leader in points (278), goals (133), assists (145), powerplay goals (26), game-winning goals (27) and plus/minus (+180), in addition to being the highest-scoring hockey player in school history, men or women. She’s good.

Expect her to put in another superstar performance if the Pride take the trophy home.

Hilary Knight

It looked like the superstar of women’s hockey was having a quiet night against the Whale, then boom, four points, two goals and a safe passage into the final. I don’t need to oversell Knight’s talents, she talks the talk on the ice. She turns up for the big games, and a cup final is definitely a big game.

Brittany Ott

Often overshadowed by the offensive talents in front of her, Ott proved her worth with a number of key saves on Thursday, making big saves at vital times when the Whale were making good ground and getting good chances. This allowed the team to build on the advantage they had, and bailing the defence out on several occasions.

We sold Katie Fitzgerald’s performance ahead of semi-final two, and the Beauts managed to solve her at a staggeringly high rate. If Ott performs better than that, the Pride will have a good foundation.

Buffalo

Emily Janiga

Two shots, two goals, three points, one cup final. Janiga came up trumps on Friday night. On a night where her team only managed 12 shots all night, she took a sixth of them, and converted both. It could be a very similar game tonight, and while you can’t expect a player to post 100% shot rates every game, she might have to come up with something similar if the Beauts are to stand a chance.

Hayley Scamurra

The 2016 3rd round pick signed her first contract with the Beauts just over a week ago. In the two games since, she has two goals and two assists. She came up in a big way for her team on Thursday. But we shouldn’t be surprised.

Coaches in Hockey East named Scamurra the best defensive forward in the conference, and she posted 31 points in her last season with Northeastern. She has pedigree, and she will be a big player for the Beauts, both tonight and going forwards.

Amanda Leveille

Where did that come from? Posting a .890 save percentage from ten games in the regular season, she pulls a .944 out of the hat with 34 saves and takes her team to the final. Against the hugely talented Pride offence, she’s going to have to perform equally as well, if not better, if the Beauts are to stand any chance of winning.

Three questions for the editors

1. This is the Pride’s for the taking, right?

Liam: You’d think so. They were very dominant on Thursday night, against a Whale side that had their chances and on another day could have been two goals ahead before the Pride scored. That said, the Pride are now 17-1 on the season. They’ve form for winning this game, and they’re better than last year’s side. If I was a betting man, I’d have to find a very generous handicap to put money on the Beauts.

Paul: You say that, but then everyone said that for last year’s Isobel Cup final, too, and the two games were decided by a combined total of three goals. The Beauts are a team who’ve already defied the critics to get here, and there’s no reason to say the dream can’t go on a little longer. Especially with several of their key players on a hot streak.

2. Are there any weaknesses to the Pride, that the Beauts might be able to exploit?

Paul: I don’t think it’s fair to call them “weaknesses” so much as “opportunities” that the Beauts might exploit. Brittany Ott is a hell of a netminder, but netminders struggle to stop what they can’t see, and when you’ve got a combination of a team that love to get to the mucky areas in front of the net and blue-line artillery like Megan Bozek waiting to unload, you load the bullets and let them fire at will.

There’s also the fact that the Pride danger players are known very, very well by the Beauts defence, because a lot of them share their time on the national team together. If you shut down Knight and Decker, then suddenly the Pride have to change their approach, and it’s not something they’ve had to do much this season.

Liam: I still sometimes question their defence. As mentioned before, the Pride gave up several good scoring chances, and it could have been a very different story if not for Brittany Ott doing Brittany Ott things. If some of the chances that didn’t go in on Thursday end up behind Ott tonight, we could be in for an upset.

3. Who’s going to have to stand out for the Beauts?

Liam: Amanda Leveille. She stopped an insanely talented offensive unit on Friday, and she’s going to have to do it again.

Paul: I was going to say Amanda Leveille too, frankly…but you’ve waxed lyrical on her already. Which gives me the chance to sing the praises of Hayley Scamurra. She’s one heck of a player, and more to the point she’s an element the Pride haven’t faced yet. They know about most of the Beauts stars, but Scamurra is a completely new prospect for their defence to deal with.

I can see her being key in this game, whether it be a goal or assist, she’s going to come up with a big play somewhere, and it could be the one that makes the difference.

Join us for coverage!

We’ll be live blogging the game on-site, starting up some time around 9:45pm GMT/5:45pm EST. We’ll be tweeting the link out via @PuckItBlog (you best be following us), so keep your eyes peeled for that.

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