After more than a week between games, the Buffalo Jr. Sabres returned to action on Wednesday night in an Ontario Junior Hockey League matchup against the Markham Royals. Despite the lengthy stretch between games, and missing several players due to suspension, the Jr. Sabres were ready to go.
Following several good chances early on, including a shot from Nolan Gorecki from right in front of the net off a pass from Josh Adimey, the Jr. Sabres were awarded a lengthy two-man advantage. With Markham’s Matthew Couto and Kevin Weaver-Vitale both in the penalty box, it took Buffalo less than thirty seconds to capitalize.
To no surprise, Nate Berke put the Jr. Sabres on the board with his third goal of the season. With the two-man advantage, captain Alec Cicero found himself playing the point. He picked up the puck & passed it to Max Ruoho on the right; Ruoho’s long pass found Ryan Pitoscia in front of the net, who jammed it across the crease to Berke.
The Royals were awarded several power plays in both the first and second periods, including a 5-on-3 opportunity of their own. The Jr. Sabres defense remained strong and limited their chances to keep Markham scoreless through forty minutes of play. Luke Pavicich also played strong in net and made several big shorthanded stops to keep the Royals off the board.
Clinging to a one-goal lead heading into the final frame, the Jr. Sabres knew it would be a big third period.
Alternate captain Ryan Pitoscia upped the team’s lead to a pair of goals with just over six minutes remaining in regulation. Leo Bax & Tyler McNeil each recorded an assist. Less than 20 seconds later, Berke tallied his second of the night – and fourth goal of the season – to make it a 3-0 game. Matteo Costantini notched his third assist of the season.
The Royals would get one back later in the period on a tally by Matthew Ceolin, but that’s as far as they would get.
With 3:32 left in the game, rookie Tyler McNeil sealed the victory with his first career OJHL goal. Pitoscia recorded the lone assist for his third point of the season.
Pavicich made 22 saves in the win, which is Buffalo’s second consecutive.
The Jr. Sabres return to action this Friday, hitting the road to visit the defending Buckland Cup Champions, the Oakville Blades.