JENNA RHEAULT LIFTS PRIDE PAST BEAUTS IN OT THRILLER
By Nathaniel A. Oliver
It was the first battle of a weekend-long "dispute at Fort Beaut" between the visiting Boston Pride and the hometown Buffalo Beauts. The undefeated Pride entered Western New York with a record of 11-0-0, but would give up their first point of the season to Buffalo. It would take overtime to settle the score, but Boston eventually came away with the 4-3 win in one of the most entertaining games of the 2019-20 season to date.
Both teams would swap goals in the first period less than 25-seconds apart. The Pride's Lexie Laing opened the scoring with 8:55 to go in the opening frame. Teammate Carlee Toews fed a crisp pass across the Beauts' goal mouth while on a 2-on-1 break. Laing tucked it home behind Buffalo goalie Kelsey Neumann to put Boston up 1-0.
Neumann would end up making 40 saves by the end of the game, and earned the game's Second Star for her efforts.
"My team played incredible in front of me," said Neumann. "I think that might've been one of the best games that I've seen them play. From start to finish, we played a whole three periods - plus the overtime - and we didn't let up."
Only 25 seconds later, Buffalo defender Marie-Jo Pelletier hammered a shot from the top of the face-off circle that zipped through Pride goalie Lovisa Selander. With an assist going to Erin Gehen on the play, the Pelletier goal set a new Beauts team record for points by a defender (14) in a single season.
The Beauts would take the lead halfway through the second period. Alternate captain Taylor Accursi would snap a long wrister through traffic that found its way past Selander. Accursi's tally was her 10th of the season, the 20th goal of her career.
"We were just winning the little battles," said Accursi. "At the end of the day, that's what is going to win us hockey games. Those little battles getting us the opportunities in front, and being able to bury them as well."
Buffalo's Sara Bustad made the score 3-1 at 16:49 of the second period with a power play tally. Selander stopped most of Bustad's shot from along the boards, but the puck trickled through and tumbled over the goal line.
The Pride would then mount their comeback to force overtime. Boston forward Tori Sullivan got a clear-cut breakaway in the Beauts' zone. She slipped the puck past Neumann as she got in close, and narrowed the score to 3-2 at 18:11 of the second.
In the third period, Boston would knot the score at 3-all when Mary Parker tallied her 11th goal of the season. Just over 10 minutes remained in the game at that point, and it would remain deadlocked for the rest of regulation.
The teams would trade shots for over two minutes of the extra frame, but it would be Boston's Jenna Rheault who put the puck into the corner of the net and sealed the victory for Boston.
"Jenna has been dedicated to improving as a defender and really committed to her team all year,” said Boston head coach Paul Mara. “She works so hard. It’s awesome to see her be rewarded with one of the biggest goals of our season. That was a real display of heart and fortitude from our team. We faced some adversity, but we battled to come back and win. Really proud of all of our players tonight.”
The Beauts and Pride will have a much-anticipated rematch tomorrow, Dec. 22, at 1:00 p.m. at the Northtown Center. Tickets are available at beauts.nwhl.zone/tickets and the game can be watched streaming live and free on the NWHL on Twitch.
"We're going to go in with the same mindset," said Accursi. "That's to make Boston play with us. I know that the first couple of times that we played them, we probably went into the game thinking that we needed to stay with them, but today I definitely felt that they tried to stay with us. That's definitely a positive."
Photo Credit: Mike Hetzel