The Buffalo Beauts are so much better than their record suggests, and Sunday's game was no exception.
Until late in the third period, the Beauts held the Pride to a tie and played a competitive and lively game. They looked, dare I say, more competitive than the Connecticut Whale have at times this season (Connecticut's 5-2 loss at the hands of the Pride was particularly embarrassing). Even though the league has already been won, making this game virtually meaningless, neither team played that way.
Just to stay in shape, Brittany Ott played the whole game in net for the Pride while across the ice Brianne McLaughlin put on a stunning performance of her own, with a little help from her defense.
The first period ended scoreless, with the Pride having the 11-10 edge in shots on goal. They didn't wait long to start scoring in the second period, as Hailey Browne sniped glove-side past Ott to give the Beauts the 1-0 lead.
That lasted all of 90 seconds, as Corinne Buie tipped in Kacey Bellamy's shot to tie it. It looks like Emily Field may have gotten a stick on it as well, but Bellamy is credited with the assist.
A few minutes later, Brianna Decker gave the Pride the lead as they drew McLaughlin well off her line, leaving two skaters to defend by themselves and Decker to flip it over everyone into the net.
Not to be outdone by her fellow Team USA player, Meghan Duggan made it 2-2 while showing that she could be playing baseball as well, swatting the puck out of the air and past Ott.
"Ready for Women's Worlds?" "Hell yes!"
No hard feelings between Brianna Decker and Meghan Duggan pic.twitter.com/NpDQGvd0jl— NWHL Gifs (@nwhlgifs) February 28, 2016
Against the Buffalo Beauts, there's always the fear that they'll force overtime as they have four times this season against the Whale. There were no late heroics for Buffalo on Sunday, though. Both teams had flurries of golden opportunities late in the second and throughout the third period, the shot differential in favor of Boston 36-27. However, it was the Pride who capitalized on a power play opportunity late in the third and Jillian Dempsey scored the game-winner, her seventh of the season.
With the regular season in the books, the leaderboards are now set in stone as well. Hilary Knight finished with the most goals, assists, and points (15-17-32) and Ott had the most wins (12) and best goals against average (1.94). Kelley Steadman was the Beauts' offensive star of the season, notching 20 total points and 13 goals.
Once the playoffs start on Friday, however, none of that really matters. The Riveters could beat the Pride again, as they have twice this season, and the Beauts have shown they can go toe-to-toe with the Whale. If things go the way we hope, the Pride will be meeting Buffalo in New Jersey instead of the Whale. Game one of both semifinal rounds start at 7:00 p.m. this Friday, so be prepared to watch on multiple devices to catch all the action.