Record: 5-16-3, 18 points
Final Standings: 7th overall (of 7)
Playoffs: Did not qualify
Ownership: NLTT Ventures
Head Coach: Vacant (previously: Rhea Coad)
General Manager: Nate Oliver
Leading Scorer: Mikyla Grant-Mentis – 21 points (9G, 12A in 24 games)
Top Goalie: Lovisa Berntdsson, 2-8-0-3, .893 sv% and 3.61 GAA
For the third straight season, the Buffalo Beauts garnered just a quarter of their potential points over the course of a season. Each of the last three seasons, the Beauts have a 0.25 points percentage, capped this season with 18 of a possible 72 available points.
This season was another rough one for the Beauts, who finished at the bottom of the PHF standings for the second straight year. While Buffalo did seem to minimally improve in the final weeks of the season, it was too little, too late, and they failed to make the Isobel Cup Playoffs.
The Beauts have not qualified for the playoffs in two of the last three seasons. (In 2021-22, all six teams automatically qualified for the playoffs.) Buffalo also lost its play-in game in 2020; overall, it's a far cry from the franchise's early years, when they made it to the Isobel Cup Final in four consecutive seasons.
There seemed to be no real rhyme or reason to the Beauts' struggles this season. Some games, they lost narrowly, while others were blowouts. They were also shut out four times, while allowing a league-high 95 goals against. Their problems were widespread: a lack of offense, poor defensive coverage, lackluster goaltending, and a few injuries. They were only marginally better on the road (3-8-1) than they were on home ice (2-8-1-1).
The overall team culture seemed to take a hit, too.
Two different players requested their release from the team over the course of the season, including once-highly-touted forward Autumn MacDougall who found herself on the fourth line and then, inexplicably, not playing at all. Michaela Boyle also requested her release toward the end of the season.
Morale will understandably take a hit whenever a team is struggling, but it became clear that Buffalo had problems brewing below the surface. For a team that has spoken often about being a "family," things really seemed to fall apart as the season went on. Finally, head coach Rhea Coad resigned in mid-March, ending her four-year stint with the organization with a record of 11-30-3 as head coach. The team is now searching for a replacement, expected to be named soon.
While the Beauts opened their season with a weekend split with the Montreal Force, the team then went on a 10-game losing skid that lasted until mid-January. That lengthy stretch kept the Beauts at the bottom of the league standings, a position that was hard to dig their way out of. While Buffalo had a promising three-game winning streak in late February, a set of five straight losses to finish the season put the final nail in any hope of ending on a positive note.
Ten of their 16 regulation losses came by a margin of three or more goals. While there were a few close games – regardless of whether the final score indicates that – things all too often fell apart quickly for the Beauts.
The Beauts' season record against each PHF team:
- vs. Boston: 0-3-1 (outscored 20-6)
- vs. Connecticut: 0-3-1 (outscored 16-6)
- vs. Metropolitan: 1-3-0 (outscored 17-10)
- vs. Minnesota: 2-2-0 (outscored 11-9)
- vs. Montreal: 2-1-1 (outscored 14-12)
- vs. Toronto: 0-4-0 (outscored 18-7)
With a new head coach to be named soon, next season's Beauts could look very different than this season's. As far as we know, the team has four players signed for the upcoming season, each of whom signed a two-year deal last summer: captain Dominique Kremer, along with Jess Healey, Claudia Kepler, and Summer-Rae Dobson.
Could we get a chance to really see what Kassidy Sauvé can do? Sauvé played only a few games before suffering a lower-body injury. She returned later in the season, only to bow out with further injury and be placed on long-term injured reserve. Her injuries forced the Beauts to rely heavily on Lovisa Berndtsson, who herself is just one year removed from multiple hip surgeries after suffering from hip issues for nearly ten years. We'll see if either, or both, choose to re-sign in Buffalo.
Although the PHF's unrestricted free agency period has already begun, I would be surprised to see any more Beauts signings until a new head coach is announced. It would seem logical on both sides of the coin – for players to wait to find out who the coach is before they sign, and for the coach to be involved in player signings.
Depending on who that new coach is, whether an internal candidate already with the team or someone new, the roster could see a lot of turnover from last season. That doesn't have to be a bad thing, especially considering the team's performance.
The PHF has also expanded its rosters, with a minimum of 22 players for the upcoming season (compared to 20). At least 20 of the 22 players will earn a minimum salary of $30,000 each, with each team required to hit a cap floor of $1.125 million, which includes housing & travel allowances, performance bonuses and salaries. Signings can also be one- or two-year deals again.
(Photo: Michelle Jay/Boston Pride)