Boasting one of the best rookie classes in franchise history, the Buffalo Beauts have maintained a tremendous momentum that culminated with an exciting Isobel Cup win. Complemented by a trio of All-Stars that previously competed in their native Canada, the proud franchise has remained in the conversation among the favorites to capture the third title in the nascent history of the NWHL.
The impact from this collection of new faces was felt early on. Providing the Beauts with one of the most moving moments in franchise history, Taylor Accursi and Sarah Shureb began the next chapter in their storied careers with a remarkable season highlight that made news throughout the league.
Taking to the ice against the Connecticut Whale on October 28, Accursi and Shureb would record their first goals as professionals in the same contest. Of note, Accursi scored twice, including the game-winning tally. In spite of such a notable debut, she remains very humble, quick to praise the collaborative of her teammates,
“To be honest, it was something that could not have been achieved without the hard work of the team as a whole. It was great in the moment and I had fun with it, but like the team, I have a strong desire to win the Isobel Cup and that is where my focus is. For me to do anything for the team.”
Of note, the game itself certainly possessed its share of tense drama. With the first 15 minutes of play resulting in a scoreless deadlock, anticipation continued to build as to which team would score first. At the 16:53 mark of the first, Accursi rose to the occasion, capitalizing on a power play opportunity.
With Jamie Goldsmith serving a holding penalty, Accursi slipped the puck past former ECAC All-Star Sydney Rossman, who was also making her NWHL debut. Gaining the assists on the landmark goal were fellow Canadian Sarah Casorso, along with Maddie Elia.
Shureb would place her name on the scoresheet in the second stanza, scoring an even-strength goal, while the first two goals of the 2017-18 Beauts season were both scored by rookies. Akin to the first period, the first half of the second was also a scoreless affair. With strong skating and rigid physical play, Shureb’s goal would prove to be very crucial later in the third. Certainly showcasing the potential of these new arrivals, eagerly prepared to provide their team a chance to win, said goal definitely took on a dual purpose. Considering that it was a shared milestone with Accursi only added lustre to such a meaningful game,
“Sharing a first goal, in our first game with a fellow rookie definitely makes it that much more special, especially with a talented player like Taylor.”
Coincidentally, Casorso would record her second assist of the game, playing a hand in both of these milestone goals. As a side note, Kaylyn Schroka was also credited with an assist on Shurebs goal. Proceeding with a her career-high third assist in the final period, Casorso was joined by Elia once again, as both also contributed on Accursis second goal of her NWHL career.
Adding to the sense of coincidence was the fact that Accursi, Casorso and Elia all recorded multi-point games. As a side note, Casorso was a former First Team All-Canadian selection with the University of British Columbia.
Before the period would expire, the Whale would score twice in merely 10 seconds. Grace Klienbach would score her first career NWHL goal at the 12:29 mark, while veteran Sam Faber trimmed the Beauts lead to just one goal. While the Beauts would manage to not relinquish their lead, totaling 14 shots on goal against Rossman in the third, the dramatic 3-2 win was an indicator of the parity that is poised to define the season.
After the win versus the Whale, Accursi and Shureb smiled for a post game photograph, each proudly holding the pucks that resulted in their first career goals, undoubtedly launching their NWHL careers in grand fashion. Reflecting on the achievement, it was one that Accursi was ecstatic to share with a fellow rookie,
“Oh yes definitely for sure. Being able to share moments like that with teammates in general, carries a positive vibe in the dressing room. Shureb is a great player and a great teammate and there is nobody I would rather have shared that moment with.”
A 5’2″ spitfire, the native of Livonia, Michigan, recorded 102 points, on the strength of 56 assists, over the course of 106 games with the Adrian College Bulldogs, one of the most dominant and offensively charged programs during the 2016-17 NCAA Division III women’s ice hockey season, qualifying for the Frozen Four championship game.
Joined by teammate Kristin Lewicki (who scored her first NWHL goal in a December 10 match against the Metro Riveters), the 2016-17 scoring champion in Division III play, and the Bulldogs all-time leading scorer, plus Belleville, Michigan’s Kaylyn Schroka, a former soccer star who ranked third in the Division III scoring race, this triptych of talent is paying significant dividends for the Beauts, building on the momentum of a memorable season with Adrian College. Undoubtedly, the infusion of such new talent into a Beauts roster that underwent significant change is testament to the level of superlative talent being developed at the Division III level.
During an eventful preseason which included contests against the Chinese national women’s team, plus a ‘Battle of the Sexes’ against the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, Shureb found the back of the net in a 9-4 exhibition loss versus the Jr. Sabres. Those contests would provide valuable preparation, helping her make the adjustment with greater confidence to the professional ranks.
While Shureb acknowledges that the speed is the chief element in getting accustomed to the NWHL, there is a tremendous feeling of pride that comes with the privilege of extending one’s career at such a high level of play, eager at the possibility of playing for a championship,
“The game is a lot faster and stronger in this league, so the biggest adjustment for myself has just been trying to get stronger on the puck and thinking a lot faster so I can make a play.
The first time putting on a Beauts jersey was so special because it is so exciting be apart of growing the women’s game, along with playing for a championship team in a great city. I hope we can bring back another Isobel Cup!”
Hailing from Ancaster, Ontario, where she captured a gold medal for Team Ontario Blue at the 2012 edition of the Canadian U18 womens nationals, Accursi made her Beauts debut in the preseason. Recording a pair of assists in a 4-2 victory against the Chinese national womens team, one of her assists came on a goal scored by team captain Corinne Buie.
Upon the start of the regular season, Accursi would emerge as a key contributor on the offense. Logging five points in her first three games, all goals, the Beauts recorded a pair of wins. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that she would also record at least one power play goal in those three games. As a side note, Accursi joins another member of her family as professional athletes.
Part of a proud legacy with the Beauts, which features more Canadian-born players than any other team in league history, Accursi also belongs to another important chapter in franchise lore. This season, the Beauts feature more than a half dozen Canadians on the roster, including Sarah Edney, Jess Jones and Rebecca Vint.
“For me, I think that the returning players played a huge role in making me feel comfortable and at home in Buffalo and having some Canadian players on the roster was a bonus.”
Having competed with the Mercyhurst Lakers of the College Hockey America conference, a nationally prominent program based in Erie, Pennsylvania, Accursi is part of a notable group of alumnae that have also worn the Beauts jersey, which included fellow Canadians Shelby Bram, Harrison (Hailey) Browne and Amanda Makela, plus Emily Janiga, among others.
“I can honestly say that playing for the Beauts is a great experience and having following in past Mercyhurst players footsteps is awesome.”
During her final season (2016-17) with the Lakers, Accursi exploded for a 23-point outburst, better than her three previous seasons combined. Highlighted by five multi-point performances, the last goal of her NCAA career took place against the Rochester Institute of Technology on February 24.
Coincidentally, Rochester would play another key role in her Beauts career, bridging both eras of her career, as the Beauts competed there for the first neutral site regular season game in league history. As a side note, her cousin, Mike Accursi once played professional lacrosse with the Rochester Nighthawks.
Just a few weeks later, Accursi experienced another milestone in her young career with the Beauts. On November 11, which is also Remembrance Day in her native Canada, Accursi rose to the occasion. With the Beauts hosting their banner raising ceremony, commemorating their Isobel Cup win, it was a tremendous source of motivation for Accursi.
As the Beauts faced the Boston Pride, the squad they bested in last seasons Finals, Accursi made a tremendous statement. Scoring twice, while recording a solid seven shots on goal in a 5-3 win, there was also a strong sense of Adrian College pride in the game, as Schroka scored her first NWHL goal. Rewarded for her efforts with the NWHL Player of the Week, complemented by winning the team’s first Hard Hat Award of the season, undoubtedly, the presence of Accursi, along with Shureb and her Adrian College luminaries, are strengthening the belief that the defense of the Isobel Cup remains a strong possibility.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”