It’s been anything but a quiet off season so far for the Buffalo Beauts.
The flurry of signings has resulted in a stacked lineup that has the Beauts already looking like the favorite to win the Isobel Cup.
Key players back include captain Corinne Buie (F), defenseman Lisa Chesson and WNY products forward Hayley Scumurra who was named the NWHL Rookie of the Year and her linemate Maddie Elia who was also a finalist for Rookie of the Year.
“Everyone who’s coming in is really hard-working,” Beauts GM Nik Fattey said. “Just like last year and going forward. When I look at the Beauts-You (have) a hardworking, skilled, hard to play against team.”
The Beauts rocked the NWHL with two huge profile signings. Olympic gold medalist Dani Cameranesi and forward Kelly Babstock.
Signing Babstock, who spent the previous three seasons with the Connecticut Whale, is a statement about how serious the Beauts are about winning.
Babstock is not only the Whale’s all time points leader with 23 goals and 27 assists, her average 24 penalty minutes a season proves she has that rare mix of talent and toughness.
“I think the Kelly signing is awesome,” Fattey said. “She plays the way we want to play. She plays with skill and grit. She never quits. When I saw her this year it was really fun to watch her play. Having her on the team I think it does send a message to the league that, and we’ve already had that, that we’re a skilled hard team to play against. She fits that Beauts mold. We’re really excited to have her.”
In college, Babstock collected 203 points in 147 games at Quinnipiac. She was also named the 2010-11 ECAC Player and Rookie of the Year.
The Beauts free agent camp resulted in three top notch finds: D Savannah Harmon (Clarkson), F Annika Zalewski (Colgate) and Eden native Juliana Iafallo (F) who played at Ohio State.
The biggest question in the off season was how would the arrival of the expansion Minnesota Whitecaps impact the rest of the league? Would teams lose their girls with Minnesota connections? Would it be harder to attract Minnesota girls who, naturally, would prefer to play close to home?
The Beauts lost starting goalie Amanda Leveille who signed with the Whitecaps on Monday.
Fattey said the addition of Minnesota is without question great for the league as a whole. And that the Beauts are doing their due diligence as an organization to find the players that best fit the mold of what they want.
Leveille was the Beauts No.2 keeper on the 2017 Isobel Cup championship. Last year, she made the No.1 job her own as she led the Beauts back to the championship game where they fell to Metro by a 1-0 final.
Losing Leveille magnifies the importance of signing Olympic gold medalist goalie Nicole Hensley just a few days earlier. The Beauts were still actively perusing Leveille when they signed Hensley. No longer a safety valve signing, Hensley will have an even greater chance to win the job of starting goalie.
Retaining Buie, a Minnesota native, and bringing in Dani Cameranesi who played college hockey for the University of Minnesota speaks to the Beauts reputation throughout the league. Three straight trips to the championship game. A first class facility in the HarborCenter and committed ownership from the Pegula’s sends the message that Buffalo is the prime destination in the NWHL.
“Obviously our facilities are second to none in the world of women’s hockey, from what I’ve seen,” Fattey said.
“Our ownership is the best in the world.”