Meet the Buffalo Beauts
There’s another team in town, and they deserve your fandom
The Beauts have several Olympic medalists on the team. One member also plays in a men’s league.
Photos by Mike Hetzel
"If you’re thinking the Beauts can’t match Jack Eichel for excitement, meet equally skilled players Hayley Scamurra and Kelly Babstock."
The next time you find yourself walking down Washington Street with a hankering to see some hockey, consider a different choice than the over-priced, underwhelming team that currently occupies the KeyBank Center. Maybe turn before you reach the foot of the street and check out the action happening at the HarborCenter.
Inside the friendly and beautiful wood-accented rink, Buffalo’s second hockey team, the Beauts, plies its trade in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) from October to March. Need a reason to check out the Beauts? Consider their success.
The NWHL has existed for three seasons and awards the Isobel Cup to its champion each year. The Beauts is the only team to have played in all three championships: they lost a close-fought series in 2015, downed Boston in 2016 for the title, then lost to the Metropolitan Riveters last season.
Meanwhile, over that same stretch, the Sabres won an average of just thirty-one games per season, finished last in their division twice, and have been consistently out of contention and uninteresting by Thanksgiving.
In fact, the Sabres spent the past twelve months jettisoning many of their top players. Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, and Robin Lehner never did win in Buffalo, but they accounted for forty-four goals, 101 points, and fifty-three games started in net. They leave a big void on the team that Jason Botterill has yet to really fill with equivalent star power.
The Beauts, on the other hand, are poised to make their fourth consecutive run at the Isobel Cup. They’ve brought back many key pieces from last year, upgraded in net, and added a few veterans in hopes of winning another title. If you’re thinking the Beauts can’t match Jack Eichel for excitement, meet equally skilled players Hayley Scamurra and Kelly Babstock.
Scamurra, 2017 NWHL Rookie of the Year, stars for the Beauts on both ends of the ice. The Williamsville native led the team in goals (seven) and points (fourteen) in just fourteen games played. The graduate of Northeastern University is also an excellent defensive player and was named best defensive forward in Hockey East during her senior season in college.
“I always think defensively first,” Scamurra says. “But it’s important to have a balance between the offensive and defensive mindset.”
Babstock, a free agent who spent the past three seasons with the Connecticut Whale, is an offensive force who totaled fifty points in forty-nine games during that time. League-wide, she’s never finished outside of the top ten in goals scored.
The Sabres made one great acquisition this offseason when they won the draft lottery and earned the right to select Rasmus Dahlin, for whom the sky’s the limit. While the Beauts may not have added a future Hall of Famer to their roster, they did make some offseason acquisitions that have shaken up the landscape of the NWHL.
First-year player Dani Cameranesi comes to Buffalo with big hopes of taking her hockey career to the next level. In 2015 and 2016, the speedy forward led the University of Minnesota to back-to-back national championships—and in 2018, she netted three goals and dished out two assists at the Pyeongchang Olympics, helping the American women capture their first gold since 1998. And she’s not done yet.
“My goal now is to win an Isobel Cup,” she says. “If I did, I’d have won at every level it is possible to play. But, I also want to win it for the organization and the fans in Buffalo, who I hear are really great.”
The two teams’ fortunes really start to diverge when you look between the pipes. For the Sabres, the situation in net comes down to a competition between journeyman Carter Hutton, who didn’t break into the league until age twenty-seven and has never been a full-time starter, and Linus Ullmark, who’s done well in the AHL but never made an impact at the NHL level. Not exactly an inspiring and exciting duo.
But this, perhaps, is where the Beauts are the strongest. They’ll likely have a platoon between Nicole Hensley, who posted a shutout of Russia at the 2018 Olympics on the way to winning a gold medal with Team USA, and the legendary Shannon Szabados, who brings her incredible reputation to the NWHL.
Szabados is a two-time gold medalist for Canada, as well as a four-time participant at the World Championships, but those may not be her most intriguing accomplishments. Since 2013, Szabados has been backstopping teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League, a men’s league.
She was the first woman to ever record a shutout in a men’s league, but it wasn’t just a gimmick. In her first full season in the SPHL, she was top-ten in wins, saves, and save percentage.
This winter, when you want to see some exciting, competitive, winning hockey, don’t rely on the Sabres (who are looking at another long, difficult year). Look next door, where the women of the Beauts are poised to have great games, a winning season, and hope for bringing another title to Buffalo.
Check out the Buffalo Beauts roster, stats, schedule and more HERE.