For the third straight game, the Buffalo Junior Sabres were in action at the Northtown Center in Amherst against one of the top ranked Junior A teams in Canada, this time Ontario Junior Hockey League division rival Burlington. The Cougars ranked 15th nationwide in the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s preseason poll.
Burlington’s outstanding power play is one of the reasons they’re so highly regarded, and they quickly put it to good use to take the first lead of the game at the 1:11 of the opening period on a goal by Cooper Richards. Buffalo rebounded quickly with Tim Kielich’s goal at the 2:02 mark and took the lead with his cousin Josh Kielich’s tally at the 3:47mark of the first period. Burlington responded several minutes later with Slater Doggett’s goal which knotted the game at 2 goals each. Buffalo regained the lead on Ryan Stayner’s goal at the 13:31 mark, but one again Burlington made Buffalo pay for its penalties with a power play goal by Phil Kiss at the 18:06 mark that tied the game 3-3. The Jr. Sabres’ Chris Luker scored with less than a minute remaining to give the hosts the 4-3 lead heading into the intermission.
Burlington started the second period with a new goaltender, as Alex Murray replaced the starter, Braden Mann. Buffalo was able to beat Murray on its first shot, and Shane Bennett’s goal just five seconds into the second period built Buffalo’s lead to 5-3. Then the Jr. Sabres found themselves taking frequent trips to the penalty box, giving Burlington the golden opportunity to get back into the game with their potent power play. They did just that, and goals by Shane Conacher and Dalton Jay erased the lead. The Cougars then went up 6-5 when Richards scored his second goal of the game. Buffalo tied it up at the 9:25 mark when Jake Ledyard scored a power play goal for Buffalo. Doggett’s second goal helped Burlington regain the lead but Scott Sims responded for Buffalo, and the teams ended two periods of play tied, 7-7.
In the third period, both teams played tighter and tougher, not wanting to make the critical mistake including allowing the other team to go on the power play. But Buffalo did just that when Joe Johnson went to the box for a high sticking call at 9:15 into the third. On the ensuing power play, Mark Arnone intercepted a would-be Burlington pass at the blue line then streaked down the ice, put a move on Murray and put in the go-ahead shorthanded goal to lift the Jr. Sabres back into the lead, 8-7. It proved to be the game winner for Buffalo, which won its second game of the season and handed the previously undefeated Cougars its first loss.
The Jr. Sabres are back in action Tuesday night, when they host the Hamilton Red Wings.
NOTES: Both teams pulled their startting goalies. Murray, as mentioned, started the second period for Burlington in place of Mann. Buffalo pulled starter Tyler Fallica at the 4:27 mark of the second period, with Parker Gahagen taking over for the rest of the game and earning the win. — Buffalo outshot Burlington 39 to 33 — Buffalo also led in penalties, with 12 of the 22 infractions going against the hosts. In all, the teams combined for 63 minutes.