The Buffalo Beauts announced Friday night that they have released head coach Ric Seiling and assistant coach Craig Muni.
Former Sabre Cody McCormick was named interim head coach.
McCormick, 35, has done skills training with the Beauts this season as part of his role at HarborCenter's Academy of Hockey. He will be third head coach in the Beauts’ four seasons.
General manager Nik Fattey will serve as interim assistant coach. Goaltending coach Ryan Vinz will remain on the staff.
Seiling had been the Beauts’ coach since their inaugural season, leading the team to the Isobel Cup final in all three seasons and winning the championship in 2016-17, when he also served as general manager. Muni joined the organization before the championship season.
The timing comes as a bit of a surprise; the Beauts are scheduled to play the Connecticut Whale at 6 p.m. at HarborCenter and have not played a National Women's Hockey League game since Nov. 18, when they defeated the Boston Pride, 5-2. After Saturday’s game, they don’t play again until Dec. 28.
Seiling said he and Muni will called into a meeting with Fattey on Friday night and told the organization wanted to go in a different direction. He said the meeting lasted less than 10 minutes.
Seiling said he was "kind of stunned … The decision had been made before we walked in the door."
Fattey did not return messages seeking comment.
The Beauts are 3-3, ranking third in the league, but faced huge expectations this season after an aggressive offseason that included signing goaltenders Shannon Szabados and Nicole Hensley and forwards Dani Cameranesi and Kelly Babstock and the return of Emily Pfalzer.
The changes come after the Beauts only won one game out of four in an exhibition series against the Russian Women’s National Team in Southern Ontario. Their one victory on Dec. 1 was a 7-1 blowout. Seiling noted a number of the Beauts’ top players, including league scoring leader Hayley Scamurra, did not play.
"I was kind of surprised that we only have had six games of the season to get noticed,” Seiling said. “Go back and check our records. Our record in the first three years at this point in the season was probably worse. We got better until the end of the year. We always had the philosophy to improve."
Seiling also noted that the Beauts had a number of players who lived out of town and that limited practice time for the full roster. But he said he and Muni made sure the players stayed in town for the two weeks before the playoffs.
"Our thing is the game we have to win is the last one," he said.
McCormick has a good chance to win his debut. The Whale are 2-6, and goalkeeper Meeri Räisänen is giving up 2.72 goals per game, on average, in six games.
The Beauts will have to be cautious of Whale rookie Katerina Mrázová, who has scored in each of the past four games this season for Connecticut, including in a 4-0 victory over the Metropolitan Riveters on Dec. 2. She is 10th in the WNHL in points, and has five goals in as many games, tying her for second most in the league.
Despite being released, Seiling said he departs with “my head up.”
"We accomplished a lot,” he said. “We pushed women’s hockey in Buffalo forward."