(Photo: Melissa Burgess)
Buffalo Beauts forward Shiann Darkangelo is part of a unique group of players in the National Women's Hockey League this season. Having played with Connecticut last year, she's one of just ten NWHLers to have suited up for more than one team in the young league.
In the league's premier season, Darkangelo averaged a point per game, scoring 10 goals and adding three assists in 13 regular-season games.
This year, she's making a name for herself in Buffalo, where she quickly showed her capacity for leadership with an "A" gracing her sweater from opening night.
Through four games in the league's sophomore season, Darkangelo has continued on a point-per-game pace, with one goal and three assists so far. She's second leaguewide in shots on goal (18), just six behind Boston's Brianna Decker.
Several adjustments naturally come with moving from one team to another. Not only does a player have to get used to living in a new city, but they’ve also got to learn the new team’s system of play.
Darkangelo said the biggest difference for her has been building chemistry with her new teammates and coaches; one player she already seems to have some chemistry with is fellow Beauts forward Kelley Steadman.
“Steady [Steadman] can definitely shoot the puck, so I know if I can find her, then she’ll find the back of the net,” Darkangelo said.
It seems to be working so far; of Darkangelo’s three assists, two have come on goals by Steadman.
Steadman also had good things to say about Darkangelo.
"She’s obviously a leader, very vocal, she’s experienced. She’s got a great shot," Steadman said. "It’s fun to play with her."
Beauts co-head coach Craig Muni said Darkangelo has been a "very steady influence" with her new team.
"She’s confident on the ice, with the puck, and she makes good plays," he said.
Among Darkangelo's Beauts teammates are also a few familiar Team USA faces, including Megan Bozek, Emily Pfalzer, and Brianne McLaughlin. All four played together on Team USA in both the 2014 and 2015 Four Nations Cup tournaments.
Bozek, Pfalzer, and Darkangelo also played together at the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championships, when Team USA won a gold medal. To this day, Darkangelo calls that her favorite hockey memory.
In total, Pfalzer and Darkangelo have played together for Team USA no less than six times dating back to 2010. Now, they play together in Buffalo and are both part of the Beauts’ leadership team.
“They’re all great people on and off the ice, so we have a lot of fun together,” said Darkangelo of her USA -- and now Beauts -- teammates. “[It] also makes it easier when we’re training outside of our NWHL practices when you have other people to go with.”
Before joining the NWHL, Darkangelo played college hockey at Syracuse (2011-2013) and Quinnipiac (2013-2015).
In her two seasons with the Bobcats, Darkangelo put up 60 points (33-27) in 74 games. She earned honors from the ECAC and College Hockey America, and also earned CHA honors in her two years at Syracuse.
“Quinnipiac has played a large role in where I am today, in all aspects of my life,” Darkangelo said.
“I owe a lot of that to coach B [Brijesh Patel], our strength and conditioning coach," she added.
Darkangelo is one of nine Quinnipiac alumnae in the NWHL this season; her former teammates include New York’s Morgan Fritz-Ward and Connecticut’s Nicole Kosta, Cydney Roesler, and Nicole Connery.
“It’s a lot of fun [having so many alumnae in the NWHL],” Darkangelo said. “I think it’s awesome that we have continued to help grow the league; hopefully there will continue to be more Quinnipiac alumnae in the near future.”
The self-described power forward said she’s “very grateful” that timing worked out as it did for her to join the NWHL in its opening season, and says that the league has given her the opportunity to continue to play at the highest level.
“It’s been great to be able to continue to play with awesome players and friends,” Darkangelo said of the NWHL.
Whether on-ice or off, Darkangelo is constantly working to improve herself as a player.
“Every day, I’m either in the gym training, or on the ice to continue to get better,” she said.
On (home) game days, that translates to stretch and bicycling at IMPACT Sports Performance, the in-house training facility at HARBORCENTER, the Beauts’ home rink.
In the first few games of this young NWHL season, Darkangelo has already gotten a taste of the Beauts’ “comeback kids” rallying efforts, as well as the team’s rivalry with the Connecticut Whale -- a rivalry that's now found her on the other side.
She registered a pair of assists in Buffalo’s 5-4 defeat of her former team on October 9 and then added an assist in the comeback loss on October 23, when the Beauts rallied from a quick 4-0 deficit.
“Our team has to strive on hard work to beat the other teams in the league,” she said.
Of course, along with playing professional women’s hockey and representing her country internationally (as well as picking up a medal or two along the way), comes the responsibility and knowledge of being a role model for young girls getting into hockey.
Darkangelo’s advice for those girls?
“It’s okay to feel nervous and uncomfortable -- I was there once,” she said. “But don’t give up. You’re going to fall a ton of times, but that’s how you get better.”
“The number-one rule is to have fun.”
Darkangelo and the Beauts now have a few weeks off, thanks to the upcoming Four Nations Cup. They’ll return to action the weekend of November 12 with a pair of matinee home games against the New York Riveters, as they continue their quest for the Isobel Cup.