The Buffalo Beauts will get a chance to defend their crown.
Defenseman Sarah Casorso scored a minute and a half into overtime to give Buffalo a 3-2 victory against the Boston Pride in the single-elimination National Women’s Hockey League semifinal Saturday at HarborCenter.
Her goal, a shot from the point a second after she joined the rush, clinched a third straight appearance in the Isobel Cup for Buffalo and continued the team’s hopes at winning back-to-back titles. It was also the first goal of Casorso’s two-year NWHL career.
“She saved her first goal for the right time,” Beauts co-coach Ric Seiling said with a laugh.
The shot from the blue line went through a few bodies but didn’t need a deflection. Casorso simply bested the screened Boston goalie, Brittany Ott.
“I knew the shot was there,” Casorso said. “All year I’ve been hitting posts and crossbars. When I heard that ding, I thought it went into the corner. It wasn’t until I looked at (Colleen) Murphy and she was (celebrating).”
Buffalo will play the winner of the Metropolitan Riveters and Connecticut Whale semifinal, which starts at 7 p.m. on Sunday. The Beauts are riding an 11-game winning streak into the title match, which is scheduled for Saturday.
Buffalo went 3-3 against the Riveters this season, losing the first three meetings and winning the last three. Connecticut is the favorable matchup, as the Beauts won all five matchups between the two teams.
Like the semifinal, the league’s title game is single game and will be hosted by the home rink of the higher seed. If Metropolitan wins, Buffalo will travel to New Jersey. If Connecticut wins, Buffalo will host the title for the first time.
The Beauts got on the board first on Saturday, as defenseman Sarah Edney scored on a one-time snapshot 11 minutes into the game. Hayley Scamurra set her up perfectly with a pass from the right corner, finding Edney with space at the hashes.
Boston responded just over two minutes later, as Jillian Dempsey tipped in a cross-crease pass from right next to Beauts goalie Amanda Leveille.
The Pride took their first lead of the game halfway through the second thanks to a bouncing shot from the point from defenseman Lexi Bender.
Mary Parker got enough of the puck to redirect it past Leveille. Boston entered the final frame a goal ahead despite falling to Buffalo in four of the teams’ previous five matchups this season.
“That Boston team, they had us nervous,” Seiling said. “They’ve always played us hard.”
Buffalo controlled play in the third period, benefitting from three powerplay opportunities. It didn’t take long for the Beauts to get their equalizer. Corinne Buie fired a shot six minutes into the period from a low-percentage angle, on the goal line a few feet away from the crease. She got a perfect bounce, as it hit Boston goalie Brittany Ott’s pad and went into the net.
“We were waiting to get some calls to go our way,” said Buie, who has a chance to earn her third Isobel Cup title next weekend. “We knew we had to capitalize on the powerplay. . . . It couldn’t have gone any better.”
Leveille said Buie’s leadership abilities were vital in the make-or-break situation.
“After the second period, a few of us were a little bit frustrated with the calls,” said Leveille, who made 34 saves. “Buie just stepped up in the locker room and calmed everyone down and she stepped up on the ice by leading by example and scoring that goal. . . . In that moment, I just knew that we were going to win. I just didn’t know when.”
Saturday’s matchup was the Beauts first home playoff game in franchise history. The atmosphere was electric in the nearly full HarborCenter.
“When we stepped on that ice for the first time and the crowd was roaring . . . I think everyone had goose bumps,” Casorso said.
“It was awesome. I hope we get more of that support in the coming years.”