Five things to know for the Buffalo Beauts season - The Buffalo News

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Five things to know for the Buffalo Beauts season

For the first time in the city's history, a top-tier professional hockey team will raise a championship banner next month.

Before that historic day, the Buffalo Beauts, fresh off their first Isobel Cup, open their season with a road and neutral site game. The team's third campaign begins this weekend, when Buffalo faces the Connecticut Whale Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Here's what you need to know as the National Women's Hockey League kicks off:

1. When are the banner festivities? The Beauts will raise their championship banner at 8 p.m. Nov. 11 at the HarborCenter. It'll be a tough sight for the visiting team, the Boston Pride, since Buffalo upset them in the final despite Boston winning all five regular season matchups.

2. The roster has seen big changes. Buffalo added one of the biggest names in free agency in August, signing forward Jess Jones from the rival professional league, the CWHL. Jones spent four years with the Markham Thunder, most recently scoring a league-leading 37 points last season.

She isn't the only player Buffalo lured from Markham. Also joining the Beauts this year is defender Sarah Edney, a CWHL first-round pick in 2015, and forward Rebecca Vint, who finished fourth on the Thunder in scoring last season.

It isn't all good news for the Beauts, as Buffalo lost two cogs of the defensive unit. Megan Bozek, the 2017 NWHL Defensive Player of the Year, won't play this season after her selection to the USA Hockey roster for the Olympics. Goalie Brianne McLaughlin, last year's postseason MVP, retired. Buffalo is without three of its top four scorers from last season. Kourtney Kunichika, who notched 11 points last season, is the leading returner.

3. There are four hometown players. The Beauts roster boasts four Buffalo natives, Maddie Elia, Hayley Scamurra, Jacquie Greco and Julia DiTondo. All four went to Nichols and enjoyed successful Division I careers. Greco, a Syracuse grad, is the only returning player. In her rookie season, she scored one goal in 15 regular season games and a goal in the Isobel Cup-clinching game.

The other three are all breaking into the professional ranks. Last season, Elia scored 11 goals and 31 points at Boston University, while Scamurra scored eight goals and 31 points at Northeastern. DiTondo, a goalie, played at Mercyhurst from 2012 to 2015.

4. What's the schedule? The Beauts will play 16 regular season games, with eight coming at home. Seven of the eight games are at the HarborCenter, with the lone exception being a Nov. 4 battle against the Metropolitan Riveters. That will be played at Bill Gray's Regional Iceplex in Brighton.

5. The league has seen changes, too. The league still consists of the same four teams, but there are some tweaks this year. Most notably, the Riveters announced a three-year partnership with the New Jersey Devils early this month. It's the first agreement of its kind, setting up an opportunity for the Riveters to use the Prudential Center facilities and play a double-header with the Devils Saturday.

Each team's roster has expanded from 17 players to 25 this season, and there's a new way to watch all the new players online. The NWHL will stream one game a week and the All-Star Game through the league's Twitter page.

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