(Amherst, NY) – The Buffalo Jr. Sabres welcomed an enthusiastic crowd into the Northtown Center at Amherst for the team’s 2012-13 Ontario Junior Hockey League home opener against the Burlington Cougars. Those who stayed until the end were rewarded with a dramatic third period comeback, as Josh Kielich’s (in photo) power play goal capped off a big finish for the hosts, who emerged 6-5 winners in a contest that saw the lead exchange hands several times.
The Cougars’ Cooper Richards opened the scoring in the first period, assisted by Shane Conacher. Buffalo responded with goals by Ryan Schmelzer (assists by Darrin Trebes, Pat Egan) and Tim Kielich (Tony DeVito, Alex Dagnal).
In the second period, Burlington regained its lead with goals by Tyler VanKleef (Richards, Conacher) and Jeremy Gottzmann (Steven Mueller). At the end of two periods it was Burlington 3, Buffalo 2.
Gottzmann built the Cougars’ lead to 4-2 in the third period with his second goal of the game, but then Buffalo’s rally began with Alex Dagnal’s goal at the 4:15 mark (assisted by J. Kielich and Nolan Sheeran). Just seconds later, Tyler Gjurich (Schmelzer, Dylan Howatt) tied the game at 4-4. Then, just under a minute later, with Burlington’s Gottzmann serving a cross-checking penalty, Josh Kielich scored on the power play to give Buffalo its first lead since the first period.
Burlington, who came into Wednesday night’s game unbeaten in their first two games, continued to play tough. Gottzmann made up for his costly penalty by completing his hat-trick and evening the score at 5-5, at the 12:42 mark of the third period.
Buffalo got another power play opportunity late, when the Cougars’ Alex Landry was sent to the penalty box for elbowing. With 2:03 remaining in the period, Josh Kielich scored his second goal of the game and put the Jr. Sabres back in the lead at 6-5. Buffalo withstood Burlington’s late pressure to seal the victory.
Jr. Sabres goaltender Parker Gahagen turned aside 31 shots while Cougars starter Brock Novak made 30 saves.
The Jr. Sabres return to action on Monday, September 17 at home against the St. Michael’s Buzzers.