It was the last time she would put on her goalie pads for a competitive game. It was the last time Brianne McLaughlin would be able to call herself a hockey player. And she was going to make the most of it.
McLaughlin stopped 60 shots on Sunday night to lead the Buffalo Beauts to their first Isobel Cup – the championship of the two-year old National Women’s Hockey League.
The goaltender who starred at Robert Morris and went on to win two Olympic silver medals with the U.S. Women’s National team capped her playing career with a professional title. McLaughlin, who announced her retirement from the NWHL earlier this season, went out as the Isobel Cup Most Valuable Player.
“It’s such a weird feeling. Hockey has been the biggest part of my life, it’s been my whole life and to say I’m not a hockey player anymore, to say it out loud, is a weird feeling,” McLaughlin said by phone Tuesday afternoon. “It would have been really easy to think about it being my last game and get emotional about that but I wanted to win so badly and the whole team wanted to win so badly.”
Win they did. After defeating the New York Riveters, 4-2, in the semifinal the Beauts outlasted the defending champion Boston Pride, 3-2.
Buffalo took a 3-0 lead and the Pride threw everything at McLaughlin in the way of 62 shots. It wasn’t until the final five minutes when Boston finally got two past her, but time was on the Beauts’ side.
“We took it one step at a time all weekend,” McLaughlin said. “We had to get past New York first and then going into the Boston game, they’re such a talented team. They can score whenever they want to. It was going to take a little more commitment and working together and that’s exactly how it was. We joked before the game I was going to get like 60 shots. Well, I did. The defense in front of me and my forwards did such a good job of keeping them out from the front of the net, there was nothing too crazy. There were a lot of shots, but they weren’t too bad.”
Unfortunately for McLaughlin, she was unable to be with her team in Buffalo Tuesday night to celebrate and receive acknowledgement from the Buffalo Sabres. She was back home outside of Pittsburgh, working at her hockey development business.
— Coach Layden (@Coach_Layden) March 20, 2017
A majority of the Beauts were on hand in KeyBank Center Tuesday, signing autographs and showing off their Isobel Cup, including captain and Buffalo native Emily Pfalzer.
It had been rare to see the Beauts all together during the season. Some players didn’t live in Buffalo and had to commute, like McLaughlin from the Pittsburgh area. Others had to take multiple jobs to make financial ends meet. Once they came together with a particular focus the final week of the regular season and for the two-game playoff run, the Beauts were able to create something special.
“Throughout the whole year some people have had to have second jobs, third jobs even and we had a lot of people from out of town,” Pfalzer, a Nichols graduate, said. “The last two weeks we really all focused on being in Buffalo, being at practices and making it all count. I think it made it more meaningful. We had people finding two and three jobs just to stay in Buffalo. Just to see the hard work and dedication to keep playing pay off, it was awesome.”