With the team in the middle of a season filled with tough losses, the Buffalo Jr. Sabres earned a win on Wednesday that every player will remember for a long time.
Hosting the East Division-leading Trenton Golden Hawks, the Jr. Sabres entered the final minute down 6-5. With goaltender Alex Connal pulled in favor of an extra attacker, Zach Evancho gave Buffalo the crucial tying goal with 30 seconds to play in regulation.
While the two teams seemed to be on course for overtime, the Jr. Sabres had other plans as Ryan Kuhn broke through for the game-winning goal with 10 seconds to play.
It was a night like no other in this difficult season.
“It was definitely a big team win,” forward Tim Kielich said. “We had guys like Ryan who supported the team, and that helped everyone come together.”
Kuhn completed a hat trick in the big win with the deciding goal, giving the Wheatfield-native his third multi-goal game of the season. Earning the win in such dramatic fashion on home ice at HARBORCENTER has Kuhn and the entire Jr. Sabres team charged up.
“It felt good to get another win at home here, just a real exciting game coming back from down two goals with seven minutes left,” Kuhn said.
Kuhn has stepped up in a major way after being named team captain midway through the season. In addition to being a leader on the ice and in the locker room, Kuhn is tied for the team lead in scoring with 22 points (12+10). Kuhn has been getting better as the season progresses, as he has points in three straight games and nine of his last 10.
The memorable comeback win was also sparked by the four-point debut of forward Brenden Dunning. After Dunning scored in the first period of Wednesday’s game, he added a power-play tally late in the third period to bring Buffalo within one goal.
During the frantic rally in the final 30 seconds, Dunning picked up a secondary assist on Evancho’s goal before setting up Kuhn for the game winner.
“The boys just kept it up, and we said to each other the game wasn’t over until we said it was,” Dunning said of the comeback effort. “We were determined to come back and get the W.”
Dunning joins the Jr. Sabres after starting the 2014-15 season with the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees of the NAHL. The Buffalo-native last played locally with the Jr. Sabres’ 16U team during the 2011-12 season.
The opportunity to come home was a contributing factor in the young forward’s decision.
“Being closer to home, I like the area,” Dunning said. “The coaching here is great, and I wanted to get the experience to play again with some of the guys I had played with before. There’s a lot of familiar faces here.”
After a number of struggles to start the season, the Jr. Sabres are starting to rally. The team had two games postponed during the major winter storm that impacted the regions south of Buffalo. The team has gone 2-0-1-1 since then, and continue to come together under the leadership of head coach John Tucker.
“I think Tucker is a really personable guy. He gets involved with us, and makes sure that we are happy,” Kielich said. “His style makes us play better.”
Following a road game this weekend, the Jr. Sabres start a three-game homestand at HARBORCENTER next Wednesday.
- Saturday, December 6 @ Aurora (7:30 p.m.)
- Wednesday, December 10 vs. Hamilton (7:00 p.m., HARBORCENTER)
- Sunday, December 14 vs. Lindsay (4:15 p.m., HARBORCENTER)
- Wednesday, December 17 vs. Milton (7:30 p.m., HARBORCENTER)