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Hilary Knight: Will women's hockey players be able to earn a living wage?
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Hilary Knight: Will women's hockey players be able to earn a living wage?
Thursday March 10th, 2016

The first-ever Isobel Cup Finals this weekend between the top-seeded Boston Pride and third-seeded Buffalo Beauts will put a cap on the NWHL’s inaugural season. The best-of-three championship series begins Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., and continues Saturday with Game 2 and Sunday with an if necessary Game 3.

The league, which is America’s first women’s professional hockey league to pay its players, featured all four teams in the best-of-three semifinals last weekend, with the Pride sweeping the New York Riveters, and the Beauts upsetting the Connecticut Whale in a dramatic three-game series.

• BARSHOP: Behind the scenes on an NWHL road trip with the Riveters

Boston finished the regular season with the best record in the NWHL at 14–3–1 and was led by Hilary Knight (15 goals, 18 assists) and two-time Player of the Week Brianna Decker (14 goals, 15 assists). Goaltender Brittany Ott also starred for the Pride, as she topped the league with a 1.94 goals against average and 13 wins during the inaugural campaign.

The Beauts’ record of 5–9–4 put them in third place at the end of the regular season. Forward Kelley Steadman led the team with 13 goals, while also ranking third in the league. Buffalo fell to Boston in five of six matchups this season, with its only victory coming on Jan. 3 in overtime.

Before the puck drops on the Finals, take a look back at some of the most memorable moments of the opening season for the Pride and Beauts.

NIESEN: With modest early goals and big plans, NWHL has reason for hope

Pride

Sept. 25, 2015

The Pride signed Knight, a two-time Olympic silver medalist and former CWHL MVP, just before the start of the season.

Oct. 11, 2015

On opening day, Knight netted the Pride’s first two goals in team history in a 4–1 victory over the Beauts in Buffalo.

Oct. 25, 2015

Two weeks into the campaign, Decker recorded the NWHL’s first-ever hat trick in a 5–3 victory over the Beauts.

Dec. 31, 2015 

The Pride and CWHL’s Les Canadiennes took part in the NHL’s Winter Classic. The game, dubbed the Outdoor Women’s Classic at Gillette Stadium, marked the first meeting between the two leagues, which are the largest in professional women’s hockey.   

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

When 24-year-old Denna Lang was severely injured after crashing head-first into the boards during the game’s first period, however, she was left with limited movement in her arms and no feeling in her legs. The Denna Lang Fund was subsequently set up to aid in the funding of Laing’s ongoing recovery.

Jan. 10, 2016

Boston began its current nine-game winning streak on Jan. 10, during which it has outscored opponents 48–16 and recorded four victories over the Connecticut Whale, the league’s second-best team in the regular season.

March 5, 2016

The Pride swept the Riveters in the best-of-three opening round of the playoffs. Boston outscored New York 13–4 in the series behind three goals and an assist from Decker, who was named the Player of the Series. 

Beauts

Sept. 25, 2015

Buffalo capped its impressive preseason signings with the additions of Olympians Megan Bozek and Meghan Duggan.

Oct. 11, 2015

Buffalo received a goal from Steadman and an assist from Duggan in its first-ever game, a 4–1 loss to Boston.

Nov. 29, 2015

The Beauts recorded their first win in team history with a 3–1 victory over the Riveters in New York after going winless through their first five games. Devon Skeats netted two goals for Buffalo, while Hailey Browne also added a score.

Jan. 3, 2016

Despite being outshot 44–29, the Beauts defeated the Pride 4–3 in overtime for perhaps the biggest win of their regular season. The victory gave Buffalo just its second win of the season, and first-ever over Boston after four previous losses.

Jan. 24, 2016

At the All-Star Game in Buffalo, Bozek won the hardest shot competition, recording a strike at 88 mph, while Steadman captured the shot accuracy contest and MVP award after scoring two goals in the exhibition game.

• Before inaugural All-Star Game, here are top storylines of NWHL’s first half

March 6, 2016

After dropping the first game of the semifinal series 3–0 to the Whale, the Beauts bounced back on Saturday with a 4–1 victory in Game 2, as goaltender Brianne Mclaughlin stopped 37 of 38 shots to force the tie-breaking game. It marked the team’s first victory over the Whale in seven matchups this season.

Buffalo and Connecticut traded goals at the start of Game 3 before Bozek scored an empty-netter to put her team ahead 4–2. The goal, Bozek’s second of the day, proved to be the difference maker, as the Beauts hung on to win the contest 4–3. Bozek was named the Player of the Series with three goals and an assist in the three games.

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