(Photo credit: Michelle Jay)

By: Jake Solomons | Follow me on Twitter @jake_solomons

The Boston Pride have completed the home half of the season, as they played their final two games at Warrior Ice Arena against the Buffalo Beauts. Of course, the Pride wouldn’t close out the season without a little excitement, scoring four unanswered goals for the comeback victory on Saturday night. The return of Mary Parker, a “taxi squad” player of sorts, provided momentum in the late minutes of the third. Sunday’s victory was much more closely-matched, as the Pride would only come away with a singular goal in a 1-0 win.

Most notable for her success along the blue line, Amanda Boulier found herself in front of the net to put away the game-winning goal. With only one goal scored in the second game, the physicality and eventual penalties would supplement the lack of excitement on the scoreboard. Let’s take at some of the highlights of this weekend’s action…

Game One

The Pride came out a bit delayed, as the two-week hiatus generated a bit of rust, slowing them down to start. Technical errors in the neutral zone created problems for both teams, but the Beauts took advantage while Boston was trying to find their stride offensively.

If you bet the over on how many offsides calls there would be in the first period, you’d win. Just about eight offsides whistles serenaded the crowd at Warrior Arena, as both teams were anxious for a scoring chance. Although nothing connected, Boston was offered a few scoring chances, started on by Kayla Friesen. Buffalo retaliated, taking advantage of the openings unattended by Boston, with Taylor Accursi and Allison Attea getting the offense going for the Beauts.

It took a while for either team to score, but Accursi’s ability to find an open lane set up an opportunity to make something happen. Feeding the puck to Dominique Kremer down low, Kremer cut in glove side to flip the puck past Selander at 17:09. Kremer’s fifth goal of the season put the Beauts up 1-0, the same score that would close out the period as Boston was unable to tie the game before the clock ran out.

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

Second Period

The Beauts wasted little time establishing their offensive zone presence with a 3-on-2 rush as Taylor Accursi buried the puck in the back of the net to put the Beauts up 2-0 at 1:41.

The early two-goal advantage gives Buffalo some breathing room, but the pressure would remain constant. Emilie Harley entered the zone covered by two defenders shook them off to find room for a shot on net. Harley’s wrist shot beat Selander over the shoulder, expanding the Buffalo lead to 3-0 at 4:11. Boston Head Coach Paul Mara called a timeout following the goal, switching goaltenders. Katie Burt would replace Lovisa Selander in the net, expecting to keep Buffalo off the scoreboard for the rest of the game.

The Pride took control following the Beauts goal with a few shots hoping to hit their mark. A corner battle saw Meghara McManus controlled the puck and found space at the point, finding Souliotis at the blue line wide open. A sure-fire slapshot by Souliotis connected with the back of the net, giving Boston their first goal of the game at 7:55.

Souliotis’ goal shifted the momentum in favor of Boston, as the goal margin closed to two. The Beauts looked a bit dazed playing catch-up to Boston’s fast-paced gameplan cycling the puck in the zone. Kayla Friesen took advantage of the neutral zone and skated the puck in deep, with Christina Putigna on her side. Friesen slid the puck over to Putigna, back to Friesen for a bang-bang one-timer to make it 3-2 at 16:01. Friesen’s third goal of the season put the Pride within one goal.

Boston kept the pressure on, outshooting the Beauts 15 to 7 in the second period. McKenna Brand had been eerily quiet until the final minutes of the third presented her with an opportunity to tie the game. Kayla Friesen won the faceoff and tipped it out front, where McKenna Brand was positioned for a pass. The puck slid out front for Brand, just lifting it past Carly Jackson for the game-tying goal at 19:10. Brand gave Boston the much-needed momentum boost heading into the second intermission, with a chance to take the lead next period.

End of the Second Period: BUF – 3, BOS – 3.

Third Period

Both teams had time to rest. This let them come out firing on all cylinders to open the period. Jillian Dempsey started things with a few shots on net, nothing connected, but it gave Boston an early advantage on offense. For most of the period, it was a goalie battle. Neither Burt nor Jackson would be fazed by any shot they faced. Katie Burt would make the Beauts work hard to earn a potential fourth goal; however, they could not capitalize.

There had been no penalties called thus far in regulation, but a few extracurricular activities here and there could have been seen as a roughing or interference penalty. Even with no whistles, the Pride penalty kill unit has had a 91% success rate this season, so there’s a good chance they would have been fine. Buffalo had participated in some roughhousing, but the officials let the game play on. Hockey is a physical game, so it’s just second nature at this point.

A tie game in the third period, a lot of tension and anxiety look toward the impending overtime period. Nobody could score, so the idea became more apparent in the late minutes. Late in the period, things were coming down to the wire; Sammy Davis generated an offensive break into the attacking zone and fired a shot deflected by Carly Jackson. The rebound was picked up by Mary Parker, who buried it past Jackson for the go-ahead goal at 18:10. Parker returned in the Connecticut Whale series at home and was a part of the 2020-21 Isobel Cup Championship roster for Boston.

Parker’s goal celebration would be short-lived, as the Buffalo Beauts would challenge for an offsides infraction. The review took little time and found no offside penalty, which resulted in a good goal for Boston and a bench-minor penalty for Buffalo on the unsuccessful challenge. Since no physical penalty was committed, we can technically say there were no real penalties in this game. As the clock ran down to the final seconds, Buffalo could not generate enough momentum to score or even get any significant shots on net.

With the final buzzer, Boston would pick up the victory in comeback fashion, putting them back in the win column once again. The Beauts lost their stride halfway through, which shifted the game’s momentum in favor of Boston. The Pride would improve to 8-5 while the Beauts fall to 4-11.

Game Two

The Beauts started Sunday’s game with a bit of momentum off the opening faceoff and entered the attacking zone brought in by Allison Attea. A short-lived offensive rush was whistled dead as the officials signaled a delayed penalty on Evelina Raselli for body-checking at 13. Boston’s penalty kill unit has been almost perfect this season, with a 91% success rate thus far. Raselli has been the most active during the Boston Pride’s break, as she represented team Switzerland in the Olympics in Beijing, China.

The Pride came out equally strong, carrying their momentum from Saturday’s 4-3 comeback win. The neutral zone transitions were still a struggle early on, but there was time to correct those mistakes. Katie Burt was tested pretty early on as Buffalo crashed and fired a few shots on net looking for a dirty goal; however, nothing connected.

Grace Kleinbach for the Beauts shot a top-shelf backhander off the crossbar was reviewed by the official for a potential goal if it crossed the goal line. A quick video review would confirm the goal, in fact, did not cross the line – keeping the Beauts off the scoreboard. Subsequently, Boston would be sent to the shorthand again for an interference minor on Jenna Rheault at 4:48, following the play. Rheault was caught up in the traffic out front and took an unlucky penalty. The Pride were good with the puck clearing and keeping most of the action along the boards, preventing any close-range offense for Buffalo.

Boston was able to successfully kill off the penalty, moving their success rate to 92%. For most of the period, the Pride kept the pressure on started by Taylor Wenczkowski. The line change allowed her to enter the attacking zone on the far left-wing cut-in to pass out front to Amanda Boulier. Boulier was perfectly positioned as she slid the puck past netminder Lovisa Berndtsson for Boston’s first goal at 9:14, her second goal this season.

The center ice faceoff created tension between Cassidy Vinkle and Putigna. Both caught up pushing and shoving behind the play, which resulted in matching penalties at 9:17 for interference and roughing, respectively. The “even strength” powerplay gave both teams an opportunity to score, but nothing was generated from the special team’s advantage.

The powerplay units for both teams saw a lot of action in Sunday’s matchup, with Emma Keenan being assessed a tripping call at 17:37. The penalty was killed off as Boston could not capitalize on the powerplay. They had a chance to redeem themselves 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.

Period Two

For most of the second, the game would be played along the boards as things got a bit choppy in the corner battles. Kayla Friesen displayed some hard-nosed offense behind the net, taking a stick blade in the upper chest. Friesen was quite shaken up and clearly in pain as she skated off the ice for further evaluation for a potential injury. Thankfully, Friesen was not injured on the play.

Boston controlled the momentum throughout most of the period, with a few short rushes by Buffalo here and there. McKenna Brand’s speed was noticed after taking control of the puck in the neutral zone, driving into the zone testing Berndtsson with a backhander, an unsuccessful attempt. Rebounds in the offensive zone by Amanda Boulier would give Berndtsson more work, but she denied every shot thrown her way.

(Photo credit: Michelle Jay)

Just past the halfway point, Boston would get another chance on the player advantage, with Emma Keenan would record her second penalty of the game at 11:55 for a tripping call. 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 made sure her cannon of a slapshot put the Beauts’ defense on notice, just barely missing the net.

The physicality continued to pick up in the final few minutes, as Lauren Kelly would be assessed a slashing minor at 16:16. 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. It’s an overstated fact, but it remains to be true. Kelly would be freed from the penalty box, putting Boston back at even strength. The physical game would carry on, as the pushing and shoving made things interesting since nobody could score in the final minutes. With 20-minutes left to play, Boston would hold the lead still at one.

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

Third Period

The Pride had a chance to expand early on with a few offensive rushes. Both teams came out with a game plan 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 took the brunt of Boston’s attack with traffic out front, but she remained a brick wall preventing anything from getting by her.

The third period would wind down offensively, with no goals scored in the final minutes of regulation. 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. 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 secure hold of third place in the PHF standings with 24 points. The Beauts fall to a 4-12 record, currently in sixth place with 11 points. The Pride will travel to New Jersey next weekend to take on the Metropolitan Riveters in a pair of make-up games postponed earlier in the season.

FINAL SCORE: Boston – 1, Buffalo – 0.