Amanda Boulier Leads Boston to Victory in the Home Ice Season Finale

by Jacob Solomons

 The Boston Pride have played their final home game of the season, a bittersweet moment for sure. However, the bitterness we felt was made up to us with a hard-fought win over the Buffalo Beauts 1-0. It’s hard to follow-up a 4-3 come from-behind-win like Saturday’s game, but the Pride bottled that energy and stuck to their gameplan to ensure a win. Amanda Boulier decided her efforts as a forward were to be utilized more, crashing the net for a game-winning goal that would put the Pride in the win column yet again.

Neutral zone battles were the weakness in Saturday’s game. However, the errors were quickly recognized allowing Boston to capitalize and give Buffalo little to no room to produce offensively. Katie Burt would get the start in net following her performance as the substitute goalie, replacing Lovisa Selander in game one. Burt has been a brick wall and rightfully so, she kept Buffalo off of the scoreboard Sunday. The grittiness and talent of the Boston Pride has been fun to watch this season, but nothing beats watching this team use that talent to secure a pair of wins to close out the final weekend on home ice.

First Period:

The Beauts took command early on the opening faceoff and entered the attacking zone on the far left wing brought in by Allison Attea. The burst of energy was short-lived as the officials signaled a delayed penalty on Evelina Raselli for body-checking at :13. Boston’s penalty kill unit has been a force this season, with a 91% success rate thus far. Drawing a penalty 13 seconds into the game was certainly not the warm welcome Raselli had in mind, as she made her return this weekend following her performance representing team Switzerland in the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Although Switzerland didn’t medal this year, we are still extremely proud of her for getting the opportunity to represent her country.

Boston’s penalty expired, as the PK unit did their job once again. The Pride started off pretty strong, with their momentum still rolling from Saturday’s 4-3 victory. The neutral zone transitions were still a struggle for both teams to control the puck, which ultimately turned into opposing offensive rushes. Buffalo made sure to keep a strong presence offensively, which we saw in game one. Katie Burt was tested pretty early on as she was directing traffic out front as Buffalo crashed and fired a few shots on net, however, nothing connected.

One shot by Grace Kleinbach off the crossbar was reviewed by the official for a potential goal if it crossed the goal line. A quick video review denied Buffalo of their first lead of the game, as a “no goal” was the confirmed call. On the same whistle, as the play was stopped, Boston would be sent to the shorthand yet again for an interference minor on Jenna Rheault at 4:48. Rheault was caught up in the mix in front of the net, and got an unlucky break. Thankfully, the penalty kill is relentless and successfully prevented Buffalo from generating any openings, keeping most of the action along the boards.

Rheault penalty served it’s time, moving the Pride’s penalty kill success to 92% on the season. Following the penalty, Boston took over their offensive zone with little resistance by Buffalo. For most of the period, the Pride simply kept the pressure on with a few blocked shots to the Beauts’ credit. A neutral zone pass to Taylor Wenczkowski allowed her to enter the attacking zone on the far left wing, with room to cut in for a pass to Amanda Boulier on the doorstep. Boulier caught the pass out front and slid the puck past netminder Lovisa Berndtsson for Boston’s first goal of the game at 9:14, her second goal this season. Boulier is usually a familiar face around the blue line as a defenseman, but a two-way defender is something Boston needs when your gameplan is “score by any means necessary.”

The center ice faceoff following Boulier’s goal generated a bit of clumsiness as Christina Putigna crashed the puck and tumbled into Kayla Friesen causing the two players to tumble on the ice. Cassidy Vinkle and Putigna were caught up at center ice pushing and shoving behind the play which would award them two minor penalties at 9:17, for interference and roughing, respectively. The two matching penalties gave both teams an “even strength” powerplay but ultimately no more than a few shots on net could come from the special teams advantage.

The powerplay units for both teams would get their fair share of action in Sunday’s matchup, as Emma Keenan would be assessed a tripping call at 17:37. All these penalties certainly make up for the zero penalties called in Saturday night’s game. The penalty was killed off as Boston could not capitalize on the powerplay. Where Boston couldn’t take charge on the powerplay, they had a chance to take advantage of the shorthand as Taylor Wenczkowski would be charged for a hooking minor at 19:48. Boston would stay on the penalty kill to open the second period.

End of the First Period: BOS – 1, BUF – 0.

Second Period:

Boston’s successful special teams unit would yet again prevent any scoring opportunities as Wenczkowski’s penalty would expire. The gameplay for most of the first half would be played along the boards as things got a bit choppy with a little pushing and shoving in the corner battles. Kayla Friesen was pretty keen on this gameplan, as she displayed some hard-nose offense, taking a stick blade to the upper body area. Friesen was quite shaken up and clearly in pain, as she skated off the ice for further evaluation for a potential injury.

The second period was pretty much in control of Boston, with the exception of a few short rushes by Buffalo. McKenna Brand showed off her speed after taking control of the loose puck in the neutral zone, cutting into the zone and tested Berndtsson with a backhander. Rebounds in the offensive zone by Amanda Boulier would give Berndtsson more work but she denied every shot thrown her way.

Just past the halfway point in the second, Boston would get another chance on the player-advantage, as Emma Keenan would record her second penalty of the game at 11:55 – this time for tripping. Buffalo’s penalty kill unit this season has a 73% success rate which isn’t terrible, but considering Boston’s 3% powerplay success rate, that’s pretty decent. Boston’s powerplay was unsuccessful as time expired, but to their credit, they overwhelmed the Buffalo defense with a few on-line shots that threatened a second goal. Kaleigh Fratkin had been quiet this series, but her stick was louder than anything as her cannon of a slapshot put the Beauts’ defense on notice, just barely missing the net. We wouldn’t want to stand in front of Fratty’s slapshot, even if you paid us the $25 million investment made by the PHF for next season.

The physicality continued to pick up as the period was winding down, as Lauren Kelly would be assessed a slashing minor at 16:16. It sounds like a broken record at this point, but the penalty kill unit has been the saving grace of this Boston Pride offense, it’s easier said than done to play on the shorthand. The Pride make it look too easy, sure, but that’s a different story. Lauren Kelly would be freed from the penalty box, putting Boston back at even strength. The physical game would carry to the final buzzer of the period, as the pushing and shoving made things interesting since nobody could score in the final minutes. With the final frame to play, Boston would hold the lead still at one.

End of Second Period: BOS – 1, BUF – 0.

Third Period:

With the lead firmly in hand, the Pride had a chance to expand early on with a few offensive rushes. Nothing could connect, as the neutral battles became a slightly outstanding problem yet again. Both teams came out with a gameplan of “dump and change” for the first few minutes, which is good to keep fresh players on the ice. However, in the first five minutes after intermission, it’s curious that the players would need a line change that quickly.

The offensive zone for Boston would be claimed by Kali Flanagan, who took the puck end-to-end, and challenged Berndtsson with an unsuccessful shot. Lovisa Berndtsson took a lot of shots on net throughout the game, Boston outshot the Beauts 32 to 18 between the first two periods. Berndtsson would continue to take the brunt of the attack with some traffic out front, but she remained a brick wall preventing anything from getting by her. Sure we wanted to score, but you have to respect the talent of the goaltender – even if it is your opponent.

Meghara McManus has been a true grinder this season, taking the body and not shying away from the physical game. McManus would be tripped up off a faceoff outside the zone, but no call would be made. Selected as an All-Star back in January, McManus has a promising career here in Boston with her physical presence and offensive presence alike. She has certainly been the unsung hero of this Boston Pride roster this season. It’s not all about statistics, it’s about how much you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for the team and Meghara McManus has exemplified that.

The third period would wind down offensively, as no goals would be scored in the final minutes of regulation. What’s more, the penalty boxes would stay empty for all 20-minutes of the third period, as the officials let the teams play their game. A back and forth, hard-fought game was exactly what we expected in the final home game of the 2021-22 season. The Pride kept the pressure on for all 60-minutes. When you start a game strong, you have to finish it the same way and Boston found their stride early and didn’t let Buffalo get anything going offensively.

In the final home game of the regular season, the Pride would secure the victory over the Beauts 1-0. Boston’s record improves to 9-5 with a steady grasp of third place in the PHF standings with 24 points. The Beauts fall to a 4-12 record, currently sitting in sixth place with 11 points. If we’re being completely honest, the record of the Buffalo Beauts does not reflect the unbelievable talent on that team. Once the playoff in Tampa come around, do not be surprised if the Beauts dominate their opposition. The Pride will travel to New Jersey next weekend to take on the Metropolitan Riveters in a pair of make-up games that were postponed earlier in the season.

FINAL SCORE: Boston – 1, Buffalo – 0.

To the fans who supported the Pride all season at Warrior Ice Arena: THANK YOU! We missed playing in front of a crowd and the energy you brought was unmatched. We’ll see you next season, Go Pride!