MARQUETTE, Mich. - When the buzzer sounded Tuesday, the winners according to the scoreboard were the Buffalo Sabres, who defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0, but the real winners were the people of Marquette.
The capacity crowd of 3,100-plus at Lakeview Arena gave the teams a standing ovation at the preseason game's conclusion, a fitting end to the events of the past few days for the city that was named Kraft Hockeyville USA 2016 in April.
Those events included youth hockey clinics at the arena, NHL alumni appearances, and a parade including the local high school hockey teams and former professional players from the Marquette Iron Rangers (United States Hockey League). Lakeview Arena received $150,000 to use on upgrades.
"I remember the last time I played in a smaller rink like this that was packed, and it's fun," said Sabres forward Nicolas Deslauriers, who scored to make it 1-0 1:39 into the second period. "It proves how hockey everywhere is important. It's a great setup. We were all happy to come here. The city has been great to us and we are happy to come here and win the game."
Video: CAR@BUF: Reinhart doubles the lead on nice deflection
Lakeview Arena opened in 1974 and was home to the Iron Rangers until 1976, the year Northern Michigan University began playing here. It did until 1999, including a perfect home record during the 1990-91 season when it won the NCAA Division I men's ice hockey national championship.
Many in attendance wore the green and yellow shirts of Northern Michigan, or Detroit Red Wings jerseys (Detroit is about a seven-hour drive from Marquette). Others had jerseys of the Sabres and Hurricanes.
"It was a full barn and the fans were excited about it," Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal said. "It was hot in there, there was a lot of bodies, so it made for an interesting atmosphere. A lot of guys grow up in rinks like this, including myself. I think for me, it brings back memories of growing up playing minor hockey, and seeing the amount of kids here, that were playing in this rink as well, it just kind of brings back those good memories."
Buffalo made it 2-0 on a goal by Sam Reinhart, assisted by Jack Eichel and Casey Nelson at 17:39 of the second period.
"The crowd was good and it was a fun game to be a part of," Reinhart said.
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma grew up in Grand Haven, Michigan and had fond memories of Marquette.
"I was out in the streets today, had a cup of coffee and lunch, and a lot of people came up and said, 'Welcome to Michigan!' and I thought, 'This is home for me,'" Bylsma said. "I've been here a couple of times to play hockey and to play in college here. I've vacationed here. The place, the fans, the people have been super-receptive to our team and I'm very thankful. It felt like a homecoming for everybody."
Video: CAR@BUF: Marquette receives Kraft Hockeyville trophy
Buffalo goalie Robin Lehner made 29 saves for the shutout.
"He roamed once or twice from the net in the first period but was real strong," Bylsma said. "I really liked our whole team game."
Carolina coach Bill Peters was happy with the Hurricanes' effort.
"I thought it was a good hockey game," he said. "We hit a couple of posts and it would have been nice to see one of them go in to make it a little more interesting down the stretch."
Following Kraft Hockeyville USA in Johnstown, Pennsylvania last season, the second edition in Marquette was as successful. Bylsma said it felt much different than a regular preseason game.
"I think everyone to a man this morning talked about this being a place they played before," Bylsma said. "Whether it was here or back in their hometown, it felt like a place we've all played in our younger years playing youth hockey. It feels like an outdoor game type of atmosphere, back to your roots of hockey, back to where you played as a kid."
Video: Deslauriers, Reinhart help Sabres top Hurricanes, 2-0