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Sabres win championship in Traverse City debut

by Mike G. Morreale
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The Buffalo Sabres certainly made their initial appearance in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament one to remember.

In the process, they also got the best of their New York neighbor, as Marcus Foligno scored a pair of goals to lead the Sabres to a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers in the championship match on Wednesday at Center ICE Arena.

The Sabres become the fifth different team to win the prospect tournament in the last five years.

"When you make improvements and have new additions to the organization with rookies and bunch of guys who haven't made the NHL yet, and go into a tournament and pull a championship, it's exciting for the organization and exciting what's to come in the future for the Sabres," Foligno told

Indeed, the Sabres outscored the opposition, 9-1, in the third period of their three victories in the five-day tournament en route to winning the trophy. In their only loss of the tournament, a 5-2 setback to Detroit on Tuesday, the Sabres were outscored, 3-0, in the final period.

"The third period was a focus of ours (against New York)," Sabres' prospects coach Ron Rolston said. "On Tuesday, that was a change and we wanted to get back to that (Wednesday). We just want to make sure that our guys were playing the right way and paying attention to details. We were able to make three strong finishes on those last three goals."

Corey Tropp's goal 1:28 into the third snapped a 2-2 tie before Daniel Catenacci connected at 15:00 to give Buffalo (3-1-0) a 4-2 cushion. Foligno then tacked on his second of the game when he drove home a shot off a breakaway after taking a pass from Zack Kassian at 17:47 to close out the scoring.

"It's weird … this whole tournament, we were a third period team," Foligno said. "Besides the Detroit loss, I think we all knew we had a little bit more in the tank (in the third) and we had 20 minutes left in this tournament to leave it on the ice. There was a lot of positive energy between intermissions and Rolston got us to work."

Foligno, who finished the tournament with 3 goals and 2 assists, was happy to chip in on the score sheet.

"It's always fun to score and help out with the points, but at the same time you want to do your job and do your role," he said. "I'm glad I had those opportunities to put the puck in the net."

Luke Adam had a goal and one assist and goalie Nathan Lieuwen made 21 saves in the triumph. The Rangers (2-1-1) received goals by J.T. Miller and Ryan Bourque.

"Our boys were resilient," Rolston said. "They worked really hard and as the tournament progressed, they knew what we had to do to be effective and have success. You felt it on the bench; we had a lot of energy and guys had good communication in terms of how we needed to play, so that was good to see."

Buffalo's top line of Luke Adam centering Foligno and Kassian proved to be quite a handful throughout the tournament. In Buffalo's loss to the Red Wings, Adam was a healthy scratch.

"Luke Adam is a great player and pretty good with the puck, and he has a great shot," Foligno said. "Kassian has a big body down low. We create space for each other and are all big guys and when we're in the offensive zone, it's tough for the opponents to kind of keep up with our pace."

Kassian agreed.

"I think we're three big bodies that like to play down low and that really favored us and we were moving it really good to find openings," Kassian said. "Luke has that great shot, so if he's in the slot you just give him the puck … it's going to be a goal more so than not."

Many of the Sabres' prospects are now looking forward to the start of training camp on Friday, including Kassian, Adam, Foligno and defensemen Mark Pysyk and Brayden McNabb.

"My goal is to play as many exhibition games as I can and do as well as I can," Foligno said. "I want to continue this strong effort I had in Traverse right through main camp. It'll be fun with all the guys and to get to play with pros."

Kassian feels Traverse City has certainly given the players one leg up entering main camp.

"Everyone in there is in game shape, ready for main camp," he said. "For me, personally, I hope to get in some exhibition games and play well."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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