Saturday night, the Boston Pride made sure everyone knows who has been the best team in the NWHL all year long.
In a sharply-executed 3-1 victory, the Pride erased all memory of the Connecticut Whale's long undefeated streak and crushed the hopes of a fairy tale underdog story for the Beauts. Boston was a well-oiled machine in Saturday's game, led, of course, by co-captains Brianna Decker and Hilary Knight.
Halfway through the first period, Decker drew first blood with a breakaway goal, beating two Buffalo defenders as the carried the puck down the center of the ice.
Perhaps more impressive was Kacey Bellamy's long pass that found Decker through traffic. Blake Bolden also had an assist on the goal.
She and Bellamy both had outstanding evenings, especially on defense. Bolden fought for every puck and made important clearances to diffuse Buffalo's offense. At one point she even threw herself on the puck in front of Brittany Ott's net to make sure it didn't sneak by. Although Ott didn't have a shutout, she put on a great performance nonetheless and faced nearly as many shots as Beauts goalie Brianne McLaughlin did. According to the NWHL's stats, the Pride had 33 shots on goal while the Beauts had 30.
The second period was exemplary of how evenly matched the game truly was, despite the scoreline. Both teams had nine shots on goal during the period and the Beauts improved immensely from the first period when they struggled to clear the puck out of the own zone.
However, the Pride were just too fast and too skilled to be taken down. Decker's second goal of the night, a shorthander in the middle of the third period, was the game-winner and all but sealed the victory for the Pride. Buffalo called a time out immediately after the Pride finished celebrating.
Even though Buffalo tried to stage a comeback, racking up the shots on goal and even getting one back late in the period, they lacked the speed to catch up with the Pride. They were also brought down mentally by having two goals waved off, one for the puck crossing the line after the whistle in the first and again for high sticking in the third.
Knight's goal to make it 3-0 was the nail in the coffin.
With the goalie pulled and the extra skater on, the Beauts scraped one back with less than a minute to play, giving the large number of Buffalo fans in the crowd something to cheer about. That was little consolation when the Pride mobbed Ott as the buzzer sounded, history set in stone...Or, rather, sterling silver.