WHITECAPS HUNTING FOR OFFENSE THIS SATURDAY AGAINST BEAUTS
By Mike Murphy
For the first time since mid-December the Minnesota Whitecaps will be back on home ice. Saturday’s game against the visiting Buffalo Beauts marks the beginning of a critical six-game homestand for the reigning Isobel Cup Champions, which is a welcome reprieve after playing 10 of their last 12 games on the road.
The Whitecaps are coming off their third split weekend series against the Riveters and are currently second in the standings with a record of 8-4-2. In order to guarantee home-ice advantage for the playoffs, Minnesota needs to keep the Riveters and Beauts at bay and pick up as many points as possible during this homestand, which makes this weekend’s games vital.
Leave it to Lev
Amanda Leveille has been sensational for the Whitecaps since the start of December. Leveille has earned a .960 save percentage, buoyed by two shutouts, in her last six starts. She’s coming off a VEDA Player of the Week performance and has, hands down, been the team’s most valuable player this season.
However, the 2020 NWHL All-Star has posted an .883 save percentage and a record of 1-1 in her two starts against her former team this season. It’s also worth noting that five of the seven goals that the Beauts have scored against Leveille have been buried in the third period. It’s no secret that Buffalo leans heavily on their power play to both build momentum and get on the scoreboard. Minnesota needs to play disciplined hockey in front of her this weekend, especially in the second half of each game.
Turning on the Offense
Measuring by every standard metric, the Whitecaps’ offense is second only to the Pride this season, but goals have not come easily as of late.
Minnesota has scored eight goals in the last four games, but the Beauts lead the league in goals against heading into this weekend. Some of the Whitecaps’ biggest threats will be looking to rediscover their scoring touch to start this stretch of games at TRIA off on the right foot.
Star newcomer Nicole Schammel has just one goal and one assist in her last seven games, but the 2020 NWHL All-Star is due for a goal – she has finished three of her last four games with eight or more shots. Jonna Curtis, who is another deserving All-Star on Minnesota’s roster, was kept out of the score sheet in her first two games back from injury. Like Schammel, she’ll be on the hunt for a goal this weekend.
A Hungry Visitor
The only team that is hungrier for a win than Buffalo right now is the winless Connecticut Whale. The Beauts are currently mired in a five-game losing streak and have slipped to fourth place in the standings as a result of this recent skid. But the Whitecaps know they can’t afford to underestimate their fierce and physical visitors.
The last time these two teams played, All-Star winger Taylor Accursi scored five goals in two games, including a hat trick in Buffalo’s 4-3 win on Nov. 24, 2019. Accursi has 13 goals in her last 10 games and is the league’s leading goal scorer. Minnesota’s veteran blue line can’t let her find rebounds or have clean looks at the net this weekend and the same is true for fellow All-Star Brooke Stacey. The Beauts are an opportunistic team that has a knack for riding a shift in the momentum, which is why Minnesota needs to impose its will and play Whitecaps hockey all weekend long.
Tickets for Saturday’s game at 7:00 p.m. CT and Sunday’s game at 1:00 p.m. CT at TRIA Rink are still available but are going fast. Grab yours now at whitecaps.nwhl.zone/tickets. All of the Whitecaps home and away games are streaming live and free on the NWHL on Twitch.
Photo Credit: Mike Hetzel