Living up to her billing as the world’s top ranked women’s ice hockey player, Brianna Decker continues to dominate in NWHL play. Decker made quite an impression as the Boston Pride prevailed in a 5-3 road win against the Buffalo Beauts. Scoring one goal in each period, Decker made history by becoming the first player in the history of the NWHL to score a hat trick.
Of note, the Beauts were hosting a second consecutive themed night. In their previous game, the club hosted a breast cancer fundraiser, which saw the players donned in black jerseys with the pink ribbon motif. This game involved paying tribute to hockey dads with their first-ever Father-Daughter Night. Not only did fathers take spots on the Beauts bench during warm-ups, they also donned their daughters’ jerseys.
While goaltender Brianne McLaughlin provided a valiant performance in the first period, facing 19 shots, the Beauts would emerge with the lead before said period expired. Decker would log her first goal of the game with 1:04 remaining. Earning the assist was Blake Bolden, the first player of African-American heritage to play in the league.
Kelley Steadman, who has scored at least one goal in all of the Beauts contests this season extended her streak by tying the score in the second. With the assist credited to Meghan Duggan, she has also managed at least one point in every game this season, as both have been the heartbeat of the Beauts offense.
Less than two minutes after Steadman’s goal, Emily Field helped the Pride regain the lead. Decker would quickly capitalize on the momentum just 1:39 afterwards, extending the lead with her fourth goal of the season. Placing the Beauts in a two-goal deficit, Decker’s goal was assisted by Alaska native Jordan Smelker.
Before the end of the second, the Beauts showed some fighting spirit. With Meghan Duggan called for a roughing penalty at 5:19, the Beauts were in jeopardy of seeing any other opportunity to get back into the game evaporate as the Pride feature a high octane offense. Instead, Steadman rose to the occasion, scoring a shorthanded goal in front of an approving crowd at Harbor Center.
With Kourtney Kunichika earning her first career point with the assist, the Rochester Institute of Technology alum would also prove to be a factor in the third period. After Pride blueliner Gigi Marvin socred her first career power play goal, resulting in the Pride reclaiming their two-goal lead, it only took 43 seconds for Kunichika to make an impact.
Answering back with her first career (with Megan Bozek earning her first career assist), the Beauts were back within range of tying the game. In addition, it would represent a special milestone for Kunichika as she registered the first multi-point effort of her NWHL career.
Despite the Beauts best efforts, the Pride had other intentions. Despite being penalized three times, after a penalty-free period in the second, the Pride turned to elite backstop Brittany Ott. Nullifying all of the Beauts power play opportunities, she would not allow another goal as the Beauts peppered her with 11 shots.
Adding to the Beauts woes was the fact that Kunichika was called for a hooking penalty with just 1:13 remaining. It would prove to be another opportunity for Decker to show her world-class skills, scoring on McLaughlin (who were teammates at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games), logging her third and final goal, this one unassisted, for the historic hat trick. As a side note, McLaughlin would face a season-high 48 shots.
With the 5-3 win, the Pride remain in first place in the NWHL’s Founders Division, while Decker sits atop of the league’s scoring race, two points ahead of Pride teammate Hilary Knight and Connecticut Whale leading scorer Kelli Stack. In addition, Ott becomes the first goaltender in NWHL history to win three games in a row, establishing her as one of the league’s finest at her position.