Fresh off their preseason victory against the Niagara Falls Canucks the Jr. Sabres headed back across the border for three days of action at the Cottage Cup hosted by the Collingwood Blues.
First up for the Jr. Sabres was a Monday evening matchup against the Leamington Flyers. Leif Ekblad got the start between the pipes for the Jr. Sabres. The Jr. Sabres’ Carter Cwiklinski took an early holding penalty, forcing an early penalty kill for the Jr. Sabres. However, the Jr. Sabres were able to successfully kill off the penalty and keep the Flyers off the board. The Jr. Sabres soon saw themselves on the powerplay as the Flyers took two penalties. Josh Przystal took advantage of the opportunity to get the Jr. Sabres on the board with assists from Tyler Isherwood and Danny Phelan. Despite two more powerplays for the Jr. Sabres they were not able to get another one on the board in the first. The Flyers tied up the game with a mid-period goal against Ekblad.
Heading into the second period, with the game tied, the Jr. Sabres took two early penalties to give the Flyers a five on three powerplay. However, the Jr. Sabres held on and kept the Flyers from scoring a powerplay goal. The Flyers then brought the score to 3-1 with two unanswered goals. The Jr. Sabres weren’t ready to throw in the towel as Przystal put another one on the board to bring them back within one. Przystal was assisted on the goal by Gavin Klaassen and Camden Bowman. The Jr. Sabres pulled Ekblad late in the period hoping to tie the game up but came up short as they were unable to get one past the Flyers goalie.
Day two of the Cottage Cup saw the Jr. Sabres face off against the Jungadler Mannheim of Germany in a morning matchup followed by a mid-afternoon matchup against the Collingwood Blues. Aiden McKenna got the start in net in the Jr. Sabres face off against Mannheim. Mannheim got a quick goal past McKenna 57 seconds into the game. The Jr. Sabres held on and tied the game two minutes later with a power play goal from Klaassen and assists from Przystal and Dylan McFadden. Ultimately, the rest of the game was all Mannheim as they went on to score three unanswered goals, including a late game power play goal.
Jr. Sabres were back in action against the Collingwood Blues, with Ekblad getting the start in net. Unfortunately, the first period was all the Blues as they scored two goals, including a power play goal as the Jr. Sabres were unable to keep themselves out of the box. The second period saw the Jr. Sabres spending more time in the box with three penalties for the period. However, Ekblad was able to keep the Blues from getting any more goals on the board keeping the score 2-0. The Jr. Sabres were unable to generate any real offense only getting seven shots on net for the game. Meanwhile, Ekblad faced 28 shots and making 26 saves to keep the final at 2-0.
Wednesday morning saw the Jr. Sabres taking on the Trenton Golden Hawks in quarter finals with McKenna getting the start. An early head contact penalty by Cwiklinski gave the Golden Hawks a power play. The Jr. Sabres were unable to successfully kill the penalty as the Golden Hawks quickly seized on the opportunity and put one in the net. After the early Golden Hawks goal McKenna was solid in net stopping the Golden Hawks from putting another in the back of the net. The Jr. Sabres continued to struggle to stay out of the box in the first period. Nonetheless, they were able to put one past the Golden Hawks goalie to tie the game up. Dylan McFadden was assisted on the goal by Haeden Ellis and Brody Seitz. The Jr. Sabres were able to keep themselves out of the box in the second period, which allowed them to take the lead, and ultimately the win, on an unassisted goal by Zach Derito. With a 2-1 win against the Golden Hawks the Jr. Sabres advanced on to the semi finals where they took on Carleton Place Canadiens.
As the Jr. Sabres took on the Canadiens their focus was on staying out of the box and generating offense. Unfortunately, the Jr. Sabres were only able to get 15 shots against the Canadiens goalie who kept the Jr. Sabres off the board. Ekblad got the start in net for the Jr. Sabres as he faced 32 Canadiens shots. The Canadiens were able to put six goals into the net past Ekblad, including three power play goals and a short-handed goal. The Canadiens ended the Jr. Sabres time at the 2023 Cottage Cup with a 6-0 victory.
The Cottage Cup gave a young Jr. Sabres squad a good preview for the road ahead as they head into the regular season.
As the Sabres headed back to Buffalo with a 1-4 record for the three days Jr. Sabres General Manager and Head Coach Sean Wallace said, “The Cottage Cup was a first-class event. We wanted to participate to compete against some of the best. This will be part of our growth process as a group. I want to especially thank the Collingwood Blues for the invite.”
Up next for the Jr. Sabres is the kickoff to the regular season on September 7th on the road with a rematch against the Leamington Flyers.