Originally slated as one of the Buffalo Beauts’ practice players, Kelley Steadman has emerged as a franchise player. Her rise to prominence is a gripping tale that would take place quickly, leaving an indelible mark on Buffalo sports, while emerging as the NWHL’s feel-good story.
Heading into the Beauts’ inaugural game, one that would see legendary Manon Rheaume participate in the ceremonial puck drop, several Canadian-born players encountered unforeseen delays with their work visas, making them ineligible to compete. Earning the opportunity to lace up her skates, Steadman took full advantage, logging the first goal in franchise history.
An incredible hockey talent, she would open the season with a three-game scoring streak. Competing against the Connecticut Whale in her second game, she recorded the first multi-point effort of her NWHL career. Gaining a first period assist on a goal scored by Meghan Duggan, she would score an even-strength goal in the third.
The third game saw Steadman gain Second Star of the Game honors. Competing against the Boston Pride, it was a game filled with several milestones. Not only did Decker score the first hat trick in NWHL history, Steadman would record a pair of goals in the contest. On her second goal, Kourtney Kunichika earned the assist, for her first career NWHL point. As of the publication date, Kunichika has come into her own, pacing the Beauts in scoring with 13 points.
An exceptionally talented player who captured a gold medal with Team USA at the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds, Steadman has also won championships at the CHA level, the CWHL’s Clarkson Cup, and a Russian league title. Her status as a practice player was likely attributed to her new role as the Director of Hockey Operations for the women’s hockey program at Robert Morris University near Pittsburgh. As a side note, Beauts goaltender Brianne McLaughlin played her NCAA hockey for RMU.
By mid-December, Steadman was not only of the leading scorers in the NWHL, she would gain the honor of being named to the roster of Team Pfalzer for the league’s inaugural All-Star Game, obtained with the sixth overall pick in the All-Star Game Draft. Taking place at Harbor Center on January 24, the chance to be part of such a historic event on home ice is a serendipitous touch to Steadman’s magical season.
Heading into the second half of the NWHL season, Steadman looks to remain an essential component of the Beauts, while continuing to capture the imagination of fans. Not only is Steadman working towards helping the Beauts avoid a last-place finish, which would be an unfortunate distinction during the league’s inaugural season. In addition, she is eager to help the club record back-to-back wins for the first time ever, a feat that eluded the club in the season’s first half.
Regardless of the final outcome, Steadman’s impact on the ice, and her efforts off the ice as an ambassador for the game, culminated in helping to make women’s ice hockey viable in Buffalo. She has proven to be a revelation, embodying the exciting opportunities of NWHL hockey, while representing a sense of idealism. Her performance so far has proven to be an empowering chapter in her distinguished hockey career, one where she has left her heart on the ice while establishing herself as a female sporting icon in the Queen City.
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