(Buffalo, NY) – In the second game of this playoff series against North York, Alex Dagnal was gaining a reputation among Rangers players and followers as a pest who wasn’t afraid to take a few liberties. Saturday night in Buffalo, he added “playoff hero” to his list of duties.
Dagnal (file photo from Game Two courtesy Tim Bates, OJHL Images) scored the game winning goal in overtime as the Buffalo Jr. Sabres took Game Three, 5-4, at Buffalo State College and more importantly cut North York’s series lead to 2-1.
Heading into the game carrying the momentum from their win in Game Two, North York struck early in Game Three as Adam Valadao found the puck and slipped it past Buffalo goalie Parker Gahagen at the 2:39 mark. Moments later, though, Buffalo went on the power play and Ryan Schmelzer quickly tied the game at 1-1 at the 3:40 mark, assisted by Tyler Gjurich and Max Mikowski.
The Rangers went back into the lead at the 4:23 mark of the second period with their own power play goal, scored by Corey Kalk. This time, Buffalo not only responded but quickly built its own momentum to take its first lead in the series. Pat Egan, who scored twice in Game Two, beat Ranger goalie Jason Pucciarelli for an unassisted goal at the 10:33 mark. Just ten seconds later, as the public address announcer was just finishing up the call on Egan’s goal, Mikowski put Buffalo in the lead, 3-2. Ryan Stayner and Sean Federow assisted on the go-ahead goal.
Buffalo let the lead get away very late in the second period, as Zachary Fung netted a short-handed goal to send both teams into their dressing rooms tied 3-3.
The Jr. Sabres again took the lead at the 7:49 mark of the third period when Nolan Sheeran set up Tyler Gjurich for the goal. Once again, though, the Rangers had an answer and it came Chris Aitcheson less than a minute later.
The game remained tight heading into overtime. At the 6:15 mark of overtime, Dagnal got his first goal of the series and set the Jr. Sabres bench and their fans into an eruption of joy.
Buffalo again outshot North York, 38 to 33, but this time played mugh tighter in their own end. Mistakes were still occasionally made but unlike in Game One, the Jr. Sabres were able to successfully prevent the Rangers from setting up plays during large stretches of the game.
Gahagen stopped 29 shots while Pucciarelli was kept a little busier, making 33 saves.
Game Four will be played in North York on Tuesday, March 19, beginning at 7:45pm. Game Five, which was earlier penciled in at the Northtown Center at Amherst, will instead be played at the First Niagara Center beginning at 8:40pm on Wednesday, March 20.
The overtime goal was originally awarded to Ryan Schmelzer, which is how it was reported when the team sent its usual game report to local media. The report was sent shortly after the game so that newspapers could have it in time for their respective deadlines. The change in credit to Dagnal came after the report was sent.
As plentiful and boisterous as the Jr. Sabres faithful were, the Rangers brought a decent sized fan base of their own to Buffalo State College. They were equally vocal when the Rangers scored, often creating a more bi-partisan feel to the venue. It’s unknown yet how the date and time of Game Five in Buffalo, which will be played mid-week and start later in the evening, will affect crowd size.
The brisk turnout at Buffalo State College also resulted in a sizeable prize for the lucky winner of the Jr. Sabres’ 50-50 raffle. The lucky winner walked out with more than $250 in prize money.
Ric Seiling, the former Buffalo Sabres forward and now the main “voice of the Jr. Sabres”, returned to the broadcast booth to call Game Three but will be out of town for Game Five. Michael Mroziak, who called Game One, is scheduled to fill in at play-by-play again for Game Five at the First Niagara Center.