It was the most unlikely of victories. Hugely out-shot by a team with all the offensive talent in the world. The vast majority of the game spent in their own end. But here we are, and a 3-2 victory later, the Buffalo Beauts are your 2017 Isobel Cup champions.
Let’s take a look at how they did it.
Brianne McLaughlin, the human brick wall
After her similarly outstanding performance in the semi-final, many expected Amanda Leveille to get the follow up start in the final. By the end of the night, it would become apparent that McLaughlin would be retiring after the game, and it was agreed that the tandem would split the games. With all the benefit of hindsight, what an inspired choice.
60 saves, all of different kinds. The ones you’d expect, the tricky ones, the ones she had no right in stopping – McLaughlin had them covered. It was inevitable that one would go in, and had it happened five minutes earlier it could have been a very different outcome. But they didn’t, and by the time the dam broke at 55:33, the Beauts had a three goal lead. And McLaughlin didn’t let it affect her.
If you’re going to retire, you might as well put in the performance of a lifetime to go out on.
Outstanding team effort
To put it all on McLaughlin is an injustice to the team in front of her. From top to bottom, they showed up to put on the perfect team effort. They hassled the puck carrier, took away passing lanes, went to those dirty areas, and cleared the crease after a rebound so many times I lost count.
In particular, I was massively impressed with the Harrison Browne line. Their forechecking effort laid the groundwork for the small amount of zone time the Beauts had, and they set the tone for the amount of leg work that was required.
Obnoxiously high shooting percentages
The Beauts had 14 shots. Fourteen. They scored three goals. They chased a very good goalie in a cup final. They managed a similar effort in the semi. They didn’t chase Katie Fitzgerald, but they scored four goals on twelve shots.
A quick look at the individuals.
Emily Janiga – 2 shots vs NYR, 2 goals – 1 shot vs BOS, 1 goal
Megan Bozek – 1 shot vs NYR, 1 goal – 2 shots vs BOS, 1 goal
Corinne Buie – 1 shot vs NYR, no goal – 4 shots vs BOS, 1 goal
Hayley Scamurra – 2 shots vs NYR, 1 goal – 2 shots vs BOS, no goal
This kind of shot percentage is absolutely not sustainable over the course of a season. The save percentage from both goalies is absolutely not sustainable over the course of a season. But in two games in a one-and-done situation, it absolutely is, and it absolutely was. As unlikely and unreasonable as the Beauts’ two wins were, they have happened and it is a great story.
Where did the Pride go wrong?
To be honest, nowhere. They had all the puck, they had all the shots. They just ran up against an extremely hot goalie and a team that was willing to put everything on the line to win the game.
The one let down, if any, was in Brittany Ott’s showing. She’s better than that, and while every goalie is prone to an off day, you don’t want that day to be the final.
That’s taking away from the incredible effort the Beauts put in. They deserved the win.