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Buffalo Beauts fall in overtime of Isobel Cup Final


Sun, Mar 17th 2019 06:30 pm

The Buffalo Beauts fell to the Minnesota Whitecaps in the 2019 Isobel Cup Final in heartbreaking fashion on Sunday afternoon in Minnesota. Buffalo was defeated 2-1 in overtime by the top seed in the NWHL Isobel Cup playoffs, coming up short in the championship game for the second year in a row.

The Beauts made their fourth consecutive Isobel Cup appearance on Sunday afternoon, which no other NWHL team has done. For Minnesota, it won its first Isobel Cup Championship in the team’s inaugural season.

Nicole Hensley got the start in goal for the Beauts after it was announced Shannon Szabados would not dress for the game due to a lower-body injury.

Despite getting the late nod, Hensley took the ball and ran with it, turning in an impressive 28-save performance in a losing effort.

The Beauts and Whitecaps played evenly for the majority of the first period. Buffalo did a good job matching Minnesota’s speed and outshot the Whitecaps 8-5 in the opening frame.

There were not a lot of scoring chances in the first period despite the fast-paced, back-and-forth play. A few minutes after the Beauts killed-off a two-minute slashing penalty to Kelly Babstock, Emily Pfalzer scored from the top of the faceoff circle to the left of Whitecaps goaltender Amanda Leveille to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead with three minutes to go in the period. Annika Zalewski and Blake Bolden picked up assists on Pfalzer’s third goal of the season.

Minnesota would answer Pfalzer’s goal less than 90 seconds later when Amy Menke came in all alone and beat Hensley short-side with a shot just over her glove to even the game 1-1 before the first intermission.

Much of the second period looked a lot like the first. Both sides continued to play at a quick pace, but scoring chances were held to a minimum.

Buffalo killed off two more penalties in the middle frame, although one kill was only 30 seconds long after Minnesota’s Amanda Boulier was called for tripping. Buffalo failed to capitalize on its 30-second advantage after 4-on-4 play ended. The Beauts would get their first full power play of the afternoon with 3:15 to go in the period, but failed to score on that advantage, as well.

Hensley was unbeatable in goal in the second and third periods. After seeing just five shots in the first period, she stopped all 24 shots the Whitecaps put on net in the final 40 minutes of regulation.

One of Hensley’s biggest saves came with 8:15 to go in the second period when she stuck out her left pad to stop a backhand shot from Menke after the forward split the Buffalo defense and found a prime chance to give Minnesota the lead on a breakaway.

Hensley made a few more highlight-reel stops down the stretch in the third period. Babstock was called for tripping and would head to the penalty box with 3:41 to play in the third period, a costly time for the Beauts to go down a skater in a tied game.

Minnesota had one of its best chances to take the lead with 18 seconds left in the power play and two minutes left in regulation when Boulier ripped a slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle, but Hensley stretched out and flashed the leather to make a big glove stop. The Beauts would kill off the rest of the penalty to Babstock and force overtime.

Minnesota’s Lee Stecklein scored the game-winning goal just 49 seconds into the overtime period. Katie McGovern won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Stecklein, who took one step in and let a shot go from the point that got deflected and made its way through Hensley’s five hole and into the back of the net.

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