STAMFORD, October 7 – Connecticut Whale goalie Meeri Räisänen came to the National Women’s Hockey League looking to be challenged.
She will be. The rookie from Finland made her first-ever NWHL start Sunday in net for the Connecticut Whale at the Terry Connors Rink in Stamford. She made 34 saves in net but the visiting Buffalo Beauts gave up just 10 shots to Connecticut won the season opener, 4-0.
Maddie Elia and Haley Scamurra both scored two goals for the Beauts (1-0) while Scamurra finished the game with two goals and two assists.
Räisänen kept the Whale (0-1) in the game with several spectacular saves. She stoned former Whale forward Kelly Babstock twice in less than two minutes in the second period. Babstock, the leading goal scorer in Whale history, joined Buffalo this summer after three years in Connecticut. She had seven shots in the game.
Connecticut struggled throughout the game to clear the puck out of their own zone. The few times they did, the quicker and more physical Beauts would bump them off the puck and create turnovers. Buffalo goalie Nicole Hensley made 10 saves for her first NWHL shutout.
Elia scored twice in a span of 2:41 to put the Beauts ahead in the first period. She scored the first goal of the game, racing away from a Connecticut defender and collecting a pass from Scamurra and rifling a shot past Räisänen.
On her second goal, Elia followed up on the rebound of a shot on Räisänen that bounced off her pads and came right back to Elia. She quickly fired the rebound past Räisänen for a 2-0 lead.
But Räisänen shook off the two goals to make 17 stops in the second period before Scamurra scored a pair of goals in the third period.
“I am really looking forward to playing with (Connecticut) against them,” Räisänen said when she signed with the Whale last week. “This will be a thrilling new challenge for me and I know I’m going to learn a lot more from my teammates and coaches.”
Räisänen played on the last two Finnish Olympic ice hockey teams in 2014 and 2018.
Connecticut returns to the ice next Saturday when they travel to Newark, N.J. to face the defending NWHL champion Metropolitan Riveters. The Whale have lost five straight dating back to last season.
Buffalo 4, Connecticut 0
Buffalo (1-0) 2 0 2 — 4
Connecticut (0-1) 0 0 0 — 0
Buffalo 1, Maddie Elia (Hayley Scamurra, Dani Cameransei), 7:08; Buffalo 2, Maddie Elia (Cameranesi, Scamurra), 9:39; Penalties: Cydney Roesler (CT), hooking, 16:45; Annika Zalewski (B) cross checking, 19:26
Scoring: None; Penalties: Jamie Goldsmith (CT) slashing, 0:52; Elena Orlando (CT), cross checking, 6:08; Roesler (CT) roughing, 10:30; Julianna Iafallo (B) roughing, 10:30; Hanna Beattie (CT) hooking, 14:20; Scamurra (B) tripping, 17:35
Buffalo 3, Hayley Scamurra, 4:17; Buffalo 4, Scamurra (Blake Bolden), 17:08; Penalties: Roesler (CT) slashing, 10:18
Saves: Nicole Hensley, Buffalo (W, 1-0) 10 shots, 10 saves; Meeri Räisänen 38 shots, 34 saves
Shots: Buffalo 38 (13-17-8), Connecticut 10 (4-3-3)
National Women’s Hockey League
Minnesota 4, Metropolitan 0
Minnesota 3, Metropolitan 1
Buffalo 4, Connecticut 0
|Saturday, October 13
Connecticut at Buffalo, 1:30 p.m.
Metropolitan at Boston, 7:30 p.m.