(Amherst, NY) – The Buffalo Junior Sabres took their first loss of the season on Monday night, dropping a 6-2 decision at home to the top team in the league, the St. Michael’s Buzzers.
C.J. Shugart scored two goals for the Buzzers, including the game’s first in the first period, while Stephen Pietrobon added two of his own. David Italiano and Troy Josephs scored single tallies.
After Shugart’s first goal, Buffalo’s Pat Egan (at right in photo) scored a power play goal early in the second period but just seconds later Italiano fired in the go-ahead goal. St. Michael’s increased their lead to 3-1 in the second period before the Jr. Sabres’ Alex Dagnal notched his third goal of the season. That’s as close as Buffalo would get in the game, however, as the Buzzers pulled away in the third period with three more goals.
Goaltender Parker Gahagen took the loss for the Jr. Sabres, making 26 saves. The Buzzers’ Adrian Ignagni turned aside 28 Buffalo shots.
“I was surprised to see us kind of let go of our game plan so soon,” said head coach and general manager Michael Peca in postgame comments. “We saw what was successful for us, getting pucks deep and I thought the defense corps for St. Mike’s was their weak point, especially below the tops of the circles in the offensive zone.”
But the Buzzers, of course, have a potent offense which Buffalo will face again on the road Friday, at St. Michael’s.
“St. Mike’s is a real young team. They’ve got a high amount of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, their transition to offense was spectacular… caught our defense off-guard a lot,” added Peca, who also suggested the team’s long layoff (this was their first team gathering since practice last Thursday) also led to some players overhandling the puck and some slower decision making.
The team will practice for the next three days and then travel Friday to Toronto for the rematch.
In addition to commenting on the loss, Peca also made a pitch to the Western New York hockey watching public, telling them that while the National Hockey League’s lockout may create a perception to some that there’s no hockey season, there is indeed good quality hockey to be enjoyed even with the NHL in a labor shutdown.
Peca was invited to make his pitch on behalf of the Jr. Sabres as a viable alternative.
“I think it’s a terrific brand of hockey. If anyone’s come out and seen us play thus far this year, the level of hockey is very high. The enthusiasm, the energy is extremely high.
“There’s people who are going to need a hockey fix, there’s no doubt about it. It’s a game that this city loves to watch and loves to support. I think the Buffalo Jr. Sabres program is a perfect outlet for them, especially with the uncertainty of the National Hockey League and its lockout.
“I know these kids in our program would love to have the support of the community. I know we’re going to be really getting involved heavily in the community with our kids. We would just love to see our rink get filled up from time to time. I think any time as an athlete when you play in front of a large enthusiastic crowd, it only makes the environment and the product a lot stronger. So, we’re hoping to maybe draw from some of those hockey starving people and get them in our rink.”