This is something we’re hopefully going to do regularly, but our friend Cyndi B drops in to update all on what’s going on with the NWHL and CWL. This is from yesterday’s C.I. program.
BUF 4 – BOS 3 (OT)
Boston dug in early in this one with a 2-0 lead, but Buffalo’s Hailey Browne tied it up with a goal in the middle of the first and another early in the second. Browne also assisted on Devon Skeats’s go-ahead goal in the third, but with five minutes to go Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker tied it up again. Buffalo went into overtime riding a 4-on-3 advantage, Megan Bozek got the power play goal, and that was the end of that.
Many years ago, in October 2015, I went to Buffalo to watch these two teams open their inaugural seasons against each other. Back then, it was an easy and common assumption that the Pride were going to be the juggernauts steamrolling the rest of the league; not only was their roster heavy on USWNT players, many had hopped leagues from the CWHL’s Boston Blades and had history together in pro hockey as well. In any brand-new league, it was inevitable that the one team of women who already knew each other would have an advantage. As an event it was a great place to be live; as a hockey game…well, there was a very visible difference in level of play.
This weekend looked nothing like that. This was a matchup between two professional, alarmingly good teams, and no one watching should have doubted that.
From the viewers’ end, an advantage to a new league with only four teams is that it’s easy to follow as teams grow into themselves. (This was the fifth of six games between the Pride and Beauts this season.) Buffalo may have stumbled out of the gate–they’re still only 2-7-2–but the quality of their game is grinding upwards with impressive consistency. They started out getting creamed, and then losing by narrow margins or sheer bad luck, and then scattering some wins in there. If ever there was a team winning or near-winning games by sheer force of will, it’s probably the Beauts right now, and I would be surprised if their record in the second half of the season looks much like their first half.