The morning of Monday, February 16th brought the first real game of the tournament. Unfortunately, the evening before, winger and alternate captain Victor Czerneckianair was up most of the night with a stomach bug. By morning it was determined that he couldn't play. Adversity is part of the game of hockey, so the Pee Wee Rangers were undaunted as they headed to Quebec City’s historic arena Le Colisee Pepsi.
A large crowd of more than 4,000 spectators were on hand for the 9:15 am puck drop. The Rangers came out flying, and seven minutes into the first period PJ Neal flew up the left wing and put a pass into the slot where Pee Wee Ranger Hunter Rossi popped it in the net. The scoreboard over center ice read 1-0 in favor of the New York Pee Wee Rangers.
The Rangers continued to press but just couldn’t find a way to slide the puck past the Sabres goaltender. That trend continued into the second period, and that’s when the New Yorkers hit a tough spot. Defenseman and team captain Christian Jiminez became a target of the referee and drew two penalties within the first four minutes of the period. The Rangers killed the first one off, but the second resulted in a powerplay tally for the Sabres. No doubt, Buffalo gained some confidence. They soon were off on a two-on-one, but defenseman Bayard Hall played it perfectly and sent the puck back up the ice. At the end of the 2nd period the score was tied 1-1.
A taut struggle continued into the third period as both teams checked closely – in particular, New York’s Jack Gorton, Jason Marsella, and Jacob Teply were following their assignments to a tee. It was becoming pretty clear that the next goal would be the decider. Seven minutes in to the third period, the Sabres won a face-off in the Rangers end and the puck was in the back of the New York net.
Down 2-1, the Pee Wee Rangers played hard, and in the final minute New York pulled goalie Gus Bylin for an extra skater. The Sabres were hemmed in their own zone and took a penalty. The Rangers had a 6 on 4 skater advantage, but a shot from the point hit a shin pad and the Junior Sabres finished the game off with an empty-netter. Final score Buffalo 3 – New York 1.
The Pee Wee Rangers are relegated to the “B” bracket which is the same path that the 2009 Pee Wee Rangers took when they were tournament champions. Mindful of that, the boys were excited at the prospect of getting back on the ice and starting to climb the mountain one productive step at a time.
Tomorrow brings an exhibition game in the morning against the AA Elite Czech Knights from Kladno, Czech Republic.