STAMFORD, March 4 – The Buffalo Beauts still haven’t found a way to beat the Connecticut Whale.
The Whale beat Buffalo for the seventh straight time Friday night, 3-0, to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-3 National Women’s Hockey League Isobel Cup semifinal series at Chelsea Pier.
Kelli Stack’s second period goal broke open a tight contest as Connecticut moved within one victory of earning a spot in the first Isobel Cup finals. It was her ninth goal of the season and the first playoff goal in Whale history.
“Shiann (Darkangelo) gave me a great pass and we had a two-on-one,” Stack said. “Normally I would pass it back to her, but the goalie gave me the shot there.”
Five minutes later, Sam Faber took advantage of a Lindsey Grigg delay of game penalty to give Connecticut a 2-0 lead. Kelly Babstock would add an empty-netter to solidify the win with 15 seconds left.
Connecticut goalie Jaimie Leonoff made 35 saves to earn her first NWHL shutout and the first shutout in Connecticut Whale history. “Right now, we’re doing everything right,” Leonoff said. “It’s great to be a part of that”
Buffalo, which outshot the Whale, 35-21, played without two of their better players – Meghan Duggan and Kelly Steadman
Meghan Duggan and Kelly Steadman did not play for the Beauts. Duggan was recently named to the U.S. team that will play in the upcoming world championships and Steadman is a member of the U.S. national team.
Game two is tonight in Stamford beginning at 7:30 p.m. Game three, if necessary, will be Sunday night at 6 p.m.
In the other NWHL semifinal, Boston dominated New York in a 6-0 victory. Game two is Saturday in Boston.
Connecticut 3, Buffalo 0
Buffalo 0 0 0 — 0
Connecticut 0 2 1 — 3
No scoring; Penalties: Shannon Doyle (CT) hooking, 3:27; Hailey Brown (Buffalo), holding, 11:00
Connecticut 1, Kelli Stack (Shiann Darkangelo, Danielle Ward), 9:12; Connecticut 2, Sam Faber (Jessica Koizumi, Shannon Doyle) 14:50 (pp); Penalties: Anya Battaglino (CT) slashing, 11:50; Kaleigh Fratkin (CT), body checking 11:24; Lindsay Grigg (Buffalo), delay of game, 13:35; Hannah McGowan (Buffalo), body checking, 15:16, Molly Engstrom (CT), interference, 18:49
Connecticut 3, Kelli Babstock (Kate Buesser), (en), (sh); Penalties: Danielle Ward (CT) cross checking, 18:04
Shots on goal: Buffalo 35 (12-9-14); Connecticut 21 (8-11-2)
Goalies: Jamie Leonoff, Connecticut (W, 1-0), 35 shots, 35 saves; Brianne McLaughlin, Buffalo (L, 0-1) 20 shots, 18 saves