It was disastrous start for the Buffalo Beauts. Five minutes hadn't past when they found themselves in a 4-0 hole to the Connecticut Whale.
The Beauts couldn't get back those horrendous five minutes, but they could change the way they played going forward. Bit by bit they sorted themselves out. They outplayed the Whale in the second and got some good bounces in the third, but failed to complete the comeback in a 7-5 loss in HarborCenter Sunday afternoon.
Team defense went off the rails early for the Beauts as Connecticut jumped on opportunities to score three goals in a 44-second span from Nicole Connery, Haley Skarupa and Dana Trivigno scored. Skarupa added her second to make it a 4-0 lead just 4:32 into the game.
So what happened in those first five minutes?
"I really don't know," Beauts coach Ric Seiling said. "I just told the girls it's a good example of if you're not prepared, not ready to start the game then that's what happens. If you look at the rest of the game, take away the first five minutes, we win the game, 5-3. But it's that first five minutes -- breakdowns, errors, not doing our job and it's a costly mistake and hopefully a learning mistake.
Emily Janiga got the Beauts on the board, scoring on a breakaway at 15:52 but the Whale answered just 32 seconds later on a goal from Kelli Stack. By the end of the first, Connecticut had a 5-1 lead.
The mood in the room: Seiling said there was no need for an impassioned first intermission talk. Instead it was about correcting mistakes and trusting the team leadership. "There's not a lot that needs to be said," Seiling said. "They're self-motivated. They feed off each other. I'm really happy with the job our captains do with the room and how everybody responds to it. All I had to do was point out a few areas I thought" needed attention "and let them take it from there. They're the ones on the ice. They're the ones doing it. It was just a bad first five minutes and it gave them a cushion to sit on."
The rally: The Beauts came back in the second with a goal from Devon Skeats at 9:10 with Kelley Steadman scoring with 27.8 seconds left, cutting the Whale lead to 5-3. Buffalo continued to chip away, making a it 5-4 game when Kourtney Kunichika scored with 12:33 left in the third period. The teams traded goals, with Buffalo making it a 6-5 game on a goal from Corinne Buie but an empty-netter from Connecticut with 12 seconds left ended the rally.
"I thought our players showed what Buffalo's all about. They didn't quit," Seiling said. "They kept coming and when you're down 4-0 I've seen a lot of teams that can pack it in real fast. These girls did not pack it in at all. They just kept coming. They believe in themselves. They believe in one another. It's a learning experience and we've got new players learning the speed."
Learning the speed: Jangia, who scored 72 goals with 79 assists in her four years at Mercyhurst, picked up her second goal as a professional in the first period. The East Aurora native who went to Nichols is transitioning to the pro game and finding the biggest change is in the speed of the game. "The pace," Jangia said when asked about the biggest adjustment. "There are a lot of skilled players in this league. No one waits for anyone out there. It's quick so you've got to keep your feet moving and I've got to keep working on getting better. So whatever I can do in the gym, I'm just trying to match the speed out there."
Goalie change: Amanda Leveille lasted one period for the Beauts after giving up five goals on 14 shots. Brianne McLaughlin came in the second and allowed one goal on eight shots over the final 40 minutes.
Standings: With the win Connecticut takes over second place in the four-team NWHL with five points (2-1-0-0-0) while Buffalo slips to third with three points (1-2-0-0-1). Defending champ Boston remains in first with an undefeated (4-0-0-0-0) record.
Scratches: For Buffalo, Ashley Vesci, Kayla Parsons, Jacquie Greco, Kelsey Neumann and Morgan Beikrich were listed as healthy scratches. Connecticut scratched Anya Battaglino, Jackie Raines, Juana Baribeau and Laura Brennan while Kaliya Johnson and Michaela Long were out with injuries.
Counting the house: There were about 200 in HarborCenter for Sunday afternoon's game, which started nearly 20 minutes late after a youth hockey tournament.
Up next: The NWHL is off until Nov. 12 as members of the national teams for the United States, Canada, Sweden and Finland prepare for the Four Nations Cup. Buffalo defenders Megan Bozek, Emily Pfalzer and Anne Schleper left after the game to join Team USA in camp in East Meadow, N.Y. The Four Nations Cup will be Nov. 1-5 in Finland.