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by Joe Ray / Buffalo Sabres

After the Buffalo Jr. Sabres jumped out to an incredibly fast start, winning 16 of their first 22 games, it was only a matter of time until their hot streak wore out. The Junior Sabres now head into action this weekend looking to snap their first two-game losing streak of the season.

The past two weeks have seen the Jr. Sabres drop a pair of contests in similar fashion. Buffalo fell to Milton in a game played at First Niagara Center on Veterans Day, losing 5-2 despite registering 51 shots on goal. Ryan Kuhn generated a pair of goals for Buffalo, but the team had 49 shots turned away by Milton goaltender Tyler Lewis.

This past Monday, Buffalo came up on the wrong end of a 4-2 contest with North York. The Rangers’ top line of forwards Adam Valadao, Liam Kerins and John Carpino combined for three goals in the game’s first eight minutes, and the Jr. Sabres never recovered from the early deficit. Jason Heerdt and Nolan Sheeran scored for Buffalo in the loss. Assistant coach Al Heerdt said the team started to find a groove after the first period, but the effort was not quite enough.

“We struggled in the first period, but as [the game went on] we got our legs back under ourselves,” explained Heerdt. “We slightly pushed back but we weren’t challenging enough to get the puck in the net.”

Despite Buffalo’s recent struggles, they have three games coming up in the next four days, presenting an opportunity to move forward and rebound from a couple of poor performances. Heerdt said the team is dialed in and ready to keep working towards getting back on their path to success.

“We’ve been so successful to this point, trying to stay on that straight line. We were going to creep a little below it, but it’s time for us to go back above that line of being successful.”

The cold streak for the Jr. Sabres has not had a huge impact in the standings, as Buffalo still has a nine-point cushion over second-place Milton in the OJHL’s West Division.

While the team has had a lot of time off with just two games in the last 12 days, there has been some good news off the ice. Two of the team’s leaders received college commitments for the 2014-15 season. Forward Max Mikowski chose to stay in the Western New York area, as the Cheektowaga-native committed to RIT for the 2014-15 season. In addition to the location, Mikowski feels that the team at RIT presented a good fit for a player of his skill set.

“It’s not too far away from home, just an hour away. [I like] the style of hockey they play, it is a very hardworking team and the coaches demand that. They are very physical and I like that a lot.”

Defenseman Nick Desimone also made his college choice earlier this week, committing to Union College for the 2014-15 season. The offensive defenseman was very pleased with his visit and found that Union was a natural fit for him.

“When I went on the visit, I felt very much at home and everyone was very personable to me. I really liked the visit and I could not find a single negative.”

Mikowski and Desimone are the sixth and seventh members of the Jr. Sabres to make college commitments this season, joining forwards Michael Ederer (St. Lawrence), Ryan Schmelzer (Canisius) and Nolan Sheeran (Canisius), along with defensemen Dennis Gilbert (Niagara) and Mason Evans (Connecticut College).

The recent downtime has also given Buffalo’s injured players an opportunity to rest up and get closer to returning to the ice. Gilbert returned to action in Monday’s loss after missing 13 games with a torn meniscus.

Forward Daniel LaFontaine, who only played four games this season before suffering a knee injury, is back in Buffalo to continue his rehabilitation with the team. LaFontaine is still four to six weeks away from game action, but his return will only increase the offensive depth on a team that is second in the OJHL in scoring.

The Jr. Sabres will play three of their next four on the road, including a pair of games this weekend. Saturday finds them in Georgetown for a 7:30 p.m. faceoff, before heading to Milton for a Sunday afternoon rematch with the Icehawks at 3:30 p.m.

Buffalo’s only remaining November home game is this Tuesday when they host the Stouffville Spirit at Northtown Center. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

Click here for the complete Buffalo Jr. Sabres schedule and ticket information.

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