MISSISSAUGA, ON – The Buffalo Jr. Sabres’ biggest challenge in their first round of the Ontario Junior Hockey League playoffs was winning on the road. Five games into the series, they fell twice at Port Credit Arena and in Game Six were trailing 2-0 and facing the threat of a Game Seven the following afternoon in Amherst.
However, the Jr. Sabres rallied to overcome that early Mississauga lead skated to a 6-4 win, winning the series against the Chargers in six games.
Lucas Venuto scored both of the hosts’ goals in the final two minutes of the opening period, the latter on a power play with just 10 seconds remaining in the period.
Wilson Vershay put Buffalo on the board just two and a half minutes into the second period. Then, on a power play, Nick DeSimone scored to tie the game 2-2 at the 13:14 mark.
Mississauga regained the lead later in the period on Zack Lansfield’s goal at the 13:36 mark, but Buffalo’s Pat Egan responded with a game-tying goal at the 18:05 mark.
Buffalo went ahead for the first time at the 5:32 mark of the third period on Daniel LaFontaine’s goal. Mississauga then evened the score at 4-4 at the 15:41 mark on Matt Hore’s tally.
Jr. Sabres captain Ryan Schmelzer responded just over a minute later with what proved to be the game-winning goal, while defenseman Jason Heerdt added a late empty-netter to erase any hopes of a late Charger comeback.
Both sides again peppered the rival goalies with plenty of shots and once again both netminders rose to the occasion. Buffalo’s Joe Pianta turned aside 34 shots while Mississauga’s Austin Washkurak – who was the OJHL’s Goaltender of the Month in February – stopped 41 Buffalo shots.
The Jr. Sabres advance to face the Georgetown Raiders, who eliminated the Milton Icehawks in a four-game sweep in the opening round. Dates and venues are to be announced in the very near future.
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Photo: Buffalo’s Ryan Schmelzer blocks a shot as the Mississauga Chargers’ Mitch Mehling (91) skates by looking to pick up the loose puck during Game Six of their OJHL Playoff series. Photo by Tim Bates / OJHL Images.