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by Jourdon LaBarber / Buffalo Sabres
The victorious Buffalo high school seniors celebrate (Photo: Rob Marczynski)

A late comeback propelled the Buffalo high school seniors to a 4-3 victory over Rochester to win the Bowman Cup on Sunday afternoon at First Niagara Center. The contest was the middle of three games played as part of the Scotty Bowman Showcase. With the victory, Buffalo improves to 8-3 in the Bowman Cup’s 11-year history.

Orchard Park’s Cole Schiffman scored the decisive goal for Buffalo with only 44 seconds left in the game. Buffalo orchestrated a 3-on-2 rush, and Schiffman ended up on the receiving end of a one-time pass from West Seneca West’s Adam Tobias. It was the second point of the game for Tobias; he also earned the assist on Buffalo’s first goal of the day early in the first half.

“On the last one I was just holding it up, and I was thinking about shooting but I saw Cole and [West Seneca East teammate Brian Wasilewski] coming down the boards so I just held up the play, moved it across and hoped and it went in,” Tobias said.

That goal put the finishing touches on a comeback effort for Buffalo, who had trailed 3-1 after Rochester scored two unanswered goals to begin the second half.

St. Francis’ Ryan DiPasquale scored for Buffalo to cut the deficit to one, and then Anthony Pontello, a senior from St. Joe’s, finally scored to tie the game for Buffalo with 3:17 remaining. At that point, the Buffalo seniors had been applying pressure but were turned away by Rochester goaltender Ryan Beutel each time. Then Pontello found himself open at the left point, where he began calling for the puck.

“We were talking before the shift about what sides we wanted. I made sure I picked left for the one-timer there,” Pontello said afterward. “Easy pass over, I just ripped it and hoped for the best.”

Pontello fired a slap shot from just inside the blue line and the puck found its way into the back of the net uninterrupted. He stood with his hands at his side for a few seconds afterwards, as if he didn’t even know he had just tied the game.

“No I didn’t,” he said. “I looked into the stands and there were a couple of people jumping up and I realized I scored. So yeah, that was good.”

After controlling the momentum early in the second half, Rochester was unable to score again once Williamsville East’s Max Battistoni took over in net for Buffalo midway through. Battistoni continually turned away Rochester’s efforts at padding their lead, including a strong stop on a rebound attempt just one minute prior to Pontello’s tying goal.

“As the game went on they kept us in it. That gave us that chance to tie it up and eventually win it,” Tobias said of Buffalo’s goaltending. “Just the saves they were making gave us a ton of energy and led us on to the victory.”

Both sides played even in the first half. Buffalo struck first when Tobias, skating with the puck behind the Rochester net, dished a pass to Couto, who snapped a shot past Geneseo’s Zach Bishopp for Buffalo’s first goal. Moments later, Greece-Thunder’s Marc McNeil connected on a pass from the corner to score for Rochester and tie the game at 1-1.

The goal scoring quickly increased in the second half. Spencerport’s Brandon Corey and Hilton’s Jake Palumbo both scored for Rochester in the opening minutes of the half, preceding Buffalo’s three unanswered scores.

Tobias credited the pickup in offensive play to increased chemistry as the game went on for teammates who had not previously played together.

“For sure, because you’re not allowed to practice with them,” Tobias said. “So you just hope as the game goes on that you just eventually start meshing together and then it worked out and we got that last goal right at the end to win the game.”

After the game, the Buffalo players were still relishing what it meant to win an event on the ice of their hometown team.

“I was trying to soak it all in, it’s the last time I’ll probably play on this ice,” Pontello said. “It was a blast, for sure.”

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