Standing between the pipes during the Buffalo Beauts’ first-ever win, it was a remarkable career milestone for goaltender Brianne McLaughlin. Having also played in the Beauts’ inaugural game, the victory allowed her another splendid opportunity to add her name to team lore.
Prevailing against the New York Riveters, who entered the game on a two-win streak, the result was a 3-2 final in which McLaughlin was recognized as the Second Star of the Game. Making 27 saves, McLaughlin would not allow a goal in the first and third periods, placing the Beauts in an outstanding position to claim victory.
Exceptionally proud of her teammates, who fought valiantly for weeks to bring the Beauts its elusive first win, forward Devon Skeats would garner First Star of the Game. Heading into the contest, Skeats was the first Canadian-born player to score a goal in franchise history. She would add to her historic contributions by logging the first game-winning tally, enabling McLaughlin to make history as the first goaltender to win a game for the Buffalo Beauts.
Considering that the bus trip from Brooklyn to Buffalo is one of the longest in the league, the chance to make the trek home as winners resulted in a much more enjoyable journey, resulting in team building and bonding.
“It is always great to win! Especially when you have a 7-hour bus trip back home to think about it with your teammates and celebrate. We are so proud to put that in the record books for the Beauts!
This team has been battling so hard and has not been able to come up with the win. It was so nice to finally earn that and get it under our belt. Now it’s time to prepare for the next game.”
Although the Beauts endured a difficult five-game losing streak to start their inaugural season, the squad always showed strong signs of fight, refusing to give up on each other and their loyal fans. Throughout said streak, their energy was a great source of motivation for McLaughlin, who never stopped believing in their abilities.
Among the inspiring displays of perseverance, the most impressive may have occurred on November 22. After an early second period goal by the Connecticut Whale made the score 6-1 in their favor, the Beauts bounced back, forcing the first shootout in NWHL history.
Despite the Whale escaping with the win, it served as an inspiring turning point in the Beauts’ season, proving that they were not a pushover. With such a strong showing, it enhanced the team’s confidence, helping to make the first win within reach, something that McLaughlin proudly helped to deliver one week later.
“This team has so much energy. It is one of my favorite things about them. We have managed to come back, battle hard, and keep every game close. Even coming back from a five-goal deficit. We have proven that to ourselves early in the season, so even though we were not winning, it was not discouraging. We know we can hang with every team in this league and win on any given night.”
As the number of highlights and memorable events in McLaughlin’s journey with the Beauts continues to grow, another that stands out involves her goalie mask. As all the league’s goalies have made a transition to new equipment since joining the NWHL, able to abandon their equipment from the NCAA and make a fresh start, the most exciting element are the superlative masks have captured the imagination of hockey fans.
McLaughlin’s outstanding mask is no exception, uniquely employing silver and blue in a remarkable combination, adorned by pin-up art reminiscent of the kind of art that raised morale in the war effort. The pin-up is adorned in the Beauts colors while she holds a goalie stick with the word “Boom”. As a side note, Makela’s mask features creative touches such as the Buffalo city skyline on the front and the city flag on each side of said mask.
In working with artist David Arrigo, who also designed masks for other NWHL goalies including Nana Fujimoto, Chelsea Laden and fellow Beauts backstop Amanda Makela, among others, McLaughlin provided her input, enhancing the creative process. The outcome was a mask whose popularity and visual appeal earned recognition on The Hockey News website.
Considering that silver is an uncommon color among goalie masks, McLaughlin and Makela both utilized it to surprising results, possibly starting a new trend. The artistry, creativity and craftsmanship translated into some of the sharpest and most visually appealing masks in all of hockey.
“I love my mask! David and I kind of collaborated back and forth. I gave him a general idea of what I wanted and let him run with it. I like having something interesting and different about my masks. When I told him I wanted a pin up girl on there he laughed and knocked it out of the park.”
The combination of so many special elements has resulted in her introduction to the Buffalo sports scene as a cherished time for McLaughlin. Considering that the city featured the highest ratings in America for the women’s hockey gold medal match at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, along with serving as host city for the 2015 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds and the first annual NWHL All-Star Game, the presence of a world-class athlete such as McLaughlin has helped contribute to an exciting new era in sporting equality in the Queen City, while introducing a new group of fans and teammates to her remarkable abilities.
“What I have enjoyed most about playing with the Beauts is my team and our fans of course! We have such a crazy group of girls with such huge hearts for the game. When you have been playing for so long, it puts the biggest smile on my face to see people love what they do and go to battle for each other.
Being at the Harbor Center is just icing on the cake to play in the best arena in the league in front of some pretty loyal fans so far. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Action shot (NWHL images), Goalie Mask artwork obtained from: http://www.davidarrigo.com/national-womens-hockey-league