Renowned for the appreciation of its sporting heroes, the city of Buffalo has discovered an exciting group of women’s hockey stars to call their own. With Buffalo’s Harbor Centre serving as the backdrop for the inaugural NWHL All-Star Game, it was an opportunity for the Buffalo Beauts to shine in a historic setting.
As eight members of the Beauts participated in the event, joined by blueliner Tatiana Rafter serving as Master of Ceremonies, the franchise was proudly represented in a sensational showcase. Leading the way was Emily Pfalzer whose presence was nothing short of prominent. Raised in Getzville, New York, approximately 20 miles from Harbor Centre (where the Beauts compete in regular season play), home ice truly had a profound and special meaning for Pfalzer.
“It was very special for me to be able to play in the All-Star game in my hometown. I love Buffalo and was so glad this amazing hockey community was able to witness the first NWHL All-Star game.”
Having first made her mark locally at the Nichols School, where she earned awards in three different years. Recognizing values such as character, prominence and academics, all while maintaining a high athletic standard, the chance to come back home and compete for the Buffalo Beauts in their inaugural season has been a dream come true.
Not only is Pfalzer the Beauts captain, she has blossomed into more than a leader, but an ambassador for her community and the game, a key reason that she was bestowed the honor of the team captaincy at the All-Star Game. Such prestige was enhanced by the fact that the group of All-Stars that she would be leading would be named “Team Pfalzer.” In reflecting on the initial announcement, Pfalzer felt a flood of emotion, although contented gratification would rise to the surface,
“I was a little shocked when I found out I was named a captain for the All-Star game because of all the amazing players in this league. Yet, I was very excited to have this event in my hometown.”
Sharing the privilege of being named an All-Star Game captain was Hilary Knight, one of the Boston Pride’s leading scorers. As a side note, the two were teammates as they helped Team USA capture the gold medal at the 2015 IIHF Women’s Worlds in Malmo, Sweden. Considering that the prodigious Pfalzer also graduated from Boston College in 2015, where she finished her sterling career as the program’s all-time leading scorer among blueliners, such achievements have added to a milestone-filled time that could best be described as surreal.
While Pfalzer had five members of the Beauts on her All-Star roster, there was also an assortment of Boston College Eagles alums as well. Among them were two of her former Eagles teammates, Blake Bolden and Emily Field, who also gained the opportunity to compete in the Women’s Winter Classic.
As a senior at BC, playing for head coach Katie King-Crowley, Pfalzer was a First-Team All-America and the recipient of the University’s Eagle of the Year Award. Such accomplishments were complemented by winning Hockey East’s Best Defenseman Award for the second straight season. She would also graduate from the program as the only Eagles blueliner to reach the century mark in career points.
In addition to Pfalzer’s BC heritage and presence as captain, the Beauts were proudly represented in various facets. During the All-Star Skills Competition, Megan Bozek, also a member of Team Pfalzer (and fellow gold medalist from Malmo) wowed the home crowd with a booming 88 mph slap shot, setting a record in the process.
Two other sensational Beauts stars would make their mark with Team Pfalzer. Kelley Steadman not only scored the first goal in NWHL All-Star Game history, which was a two period affair consisting of 4-on-4 hockey, she would score a second goal, capturing Game MVP honors.
The sense of history was enhanced by Devon Skeats, who would become the first Canadian to score a goal in the history of the event. As a side note, Pfalzer once played junior hockey in Canada, with the Mississauga Jr. Chiefs in the prominent PWHL. Such remarkable contributions by the Beauts not only added a sense of contentment for Buffalo’s jubilant fans, it was a point of pride for Pfalzer, who was proud of all her teammates that participated,
“With it being the very first All-Star game, it was really awesome to see my Beauts teammate’s make history and excel in the skills competition and game.”
Perhaps the most admirable quality of Pfalzer is her positivity. Gracious throughout All-Star Weekend, it is part of an infectious fervor that has defined the chance to add variety to a remarkable hockey market. With East Aurora native Emily Janiga part of the Beauts inaugural draft, there will be more local heroes for the Beauts fan base to cheer for next season.
Despite the Beauts enduring an 0-5 start, she was always proud of the way community came out to support the team. Part of the starting lineup for the first four games in Beauts franchise history, including Bozek as one of her defense partners, Pfalzer’s perseverance is the embodiment of the potential for Buffalo to become a top market for women’s hockey in the United States.
During the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Buffalo had the highest ratings in the United States for the gold medal game between Canada and the US. As the host city for the 2015 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds, which saw the US capture the gold medal (at Harbor Center no loss), tournament organizers were proud of the fact that the second largest crowd in the event’s history added to such jubilation.
In the aftermath of the inaugural NWHL All-Star Game, the greatest legacy of the event may have been the occasion for the Beauts players, led by Pfalzer, to show their gratitude to the community, while adding remarkable luster to Buffalo’s growing women’s hockey legacy. Should Pfalzer be able to add to the proud momentum as a member of the US roster for the 2018 Winter Games, it would not only add to her legend, but serve as the catalyst to generate even more interest in the Beauts.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”