Like so many other exciting, evenly-matched hockey games, Saturday night's contest between the Boston Pride and the Buffalo Beauts was decided by the game of luck that is the shootout.
On the night of their home opener at Warrior Ice Arena, the Pride drew first blood early in the second period. Beauts goalkeeper Brianne McLaughlin moved to her left in an attempt to make a pad save, but she gave Jordan Smelker just enough space to shoot past her glove side for the goal.
Through nearly 60 minutes of play, the two teams were separated only by Smelker's goal. The Pride amassed a total of 42 shots on goal during the game while holding the Beauts to only 17. However, the Beauts defense was a force to be reckoned with. They forced the Pride offense into a state of disorganization during the first period, resulting in intense back-and-forth exchanges up and down the ice.
The two teams only had two power play opportunities each, but the Beauts made theirs count. Late in the third period, Pride defender Lexi Bender was called for interference. Shiann Darkangelo, who was the leading scorer for the Connecticut Whale last season, flashed her killer instinct in front of goal as she tapped in a shot from the point by Sarah Casorso to tie the game 1-1.
After five minutes of 4-on-4 sudden death overtime, the game went on to the shooutout, the first of the season in the NWHL.
McLaughlin impressively denied Brianna Decker, Alex Carpenter, Gigi Marvin, and Zoe Hickel before the fifth chance fell to Amanda Pelkey. With the game on her stick, Pelkey shot off-balance between McLaughlin's pads to finally find the back of the net to give the Pride the 2-1 lead.
Brittany Ott made the save on Darkangelo's shot to secure the victory for Boston.
During postgame media availability, Pelkey broke down the strategy behind her game-winning goal.
"You kind of watch to see how she moves with other people, but honestly there’s a lot of snow in front of the net so it was kind of hard," she said. "So I was talking to Zoe and I was like, 'honestly, I think we should just go five-hole'...Like for me, it’s either I go five-hole, get the goalie moving then shoot five-hole, or deke back in, but there was too much snow to do that and a couple girls already tried. So I was like, 'oh what the heck, I’m gonna go five-hole.'"
Prior to the game, the Pride unfurled their official Isobel Cup Champion banners along the boards and welcomed the members of the championship squad who are no longer on the team back to the ice for a ceremonial puck drop. After a long and busy offseason, Pelkey said the pregame ceremony was a much needed and appreciated.
"Times like that when you can look up and actually see it in writing it’s like, oh yeah, okay, that did happen, and it makes you reflect back on it," she said.
With three wins in three games, the Pride will host the New York Riveters (0-2) this Saturday at 6:30 at Warrior Ice Arena. The home opener sold out, so if you're planning on attending, grab your tickets ASAP.