It was a tale of two games Thursday at United Center in Chicago as the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals provided an exciting nail-biter of an opener that went right down to the wire, followed by a blowout in the nightcap. In the end, both Sabres prospects vying to become part of a national championship team came away empty.
In the first semifinal, Sean Malone (2013, sixth round) produced three shots on goal as Harvard came up short 2-1 to Minnesota-Duluth in a game that proved to be an excellent advertisement for college hockey.
Malone was buzzing from the get-go, using his speed to force the play deep into the Minnesota-Duluth zone as the Crimson and Bulldogs played to a 1-1 tie at the end of the opening stanza.
Tyler Moy (NSH) scored on the power play to out Harvard up 1-0 at the 15-minute mark. Joey Anderson (NJD) knotted the score for the Bulldogs at 18:24.
The Crimson were on the defensive for most of the middle period, but it was again Malone's line that brought the Crimson back to life. With seven minutes left in the period, Malone dinged a shot off the post for his best chance of the scoreless frame.
Malone continued to execute at a high level in the tightly played third period, using his skating and energy to be a regular presence at the edge of the Minnesota-Duluth crease. But it was another Western New York product that stole the spotlight as Eden native Alex Iafallo redirected a centering feed with his backhand through the legs of Crimson netminder Merrick Madsen (PHI) with 26.6 seconds remaining on the clock for the game's final goal.
Harvard would not go away without a fight, though, as they swarmed in the final seconds of play with Malone getting down low and ringing one of Harvard's two last-second shots off the crossbar right before the final buzzer sounded.
It was a disappointing end for Malone's collegiate career that saw him fall one point shy of the 100 club with 42 goals and 57 assists in 115 appearances with Harvard.
In the nightcap, Notre Dame goaltender Cal Petersen (2013, fifth round) made 36 saves as the Fighting Irish saw their season come to an end with a 6-1 loss to Denver.
Denver asserted their dominance right from the opening drop of the puck, getting their first puck on Petersen just five seconds into the game en route to gaining a 25-6 advantage in shot attempts in the first period, and they'd head into the first intermission with a two-goal lead.
Petersen is no stranger to the Pioneer attack. Last season, he was forced to stand on his head in a weekend set at Denver, producing 49 and 43-save efforts - his two busiest nights of the season - in 2-2 and 1-1 ties.
The outcome this season, though, was much different.
The Pioneers first beat Petersen at 8:18 when Emil Romig roofed a perfectly placed shot under the bar from the side of the cage.
An untouched Henrik Borgstrom (FLA) scored with 5:10 left in the period by cleaning up a Will Butcher (COL) wraparound attempt right at the doorstep.
Notre Dame leveled things out in the middle frame effort-wise, but the Pioneers surged late with three more goals as part of a 16-shot period to head to the dressing room with a 5-0 lead.
After Fighting Irish defenseman Luke Ripley fell to the ice, Denver broke into the Notre Dame zone on a 2-on-1 rush with the pass coming over to Tariq Hammond for the finish past a sprawling Petersen at 14:07.
Next to score was Dylan Gambrell (SJS), who came down the right wing and faked a shot before scoring on a wraparound.
Evan Ritt took a pass a beat Petersen to the stick side with 1:38 to go in the period to increase the lead to 5-0.
The teams traded goals in the final period, with Cam Morrison (COL) finally getting the Fighting Irish on the board and Gambrell getting his second of the night when he banked a shot from beneath the goal line off Petersen's left pad.
Petersen completes the season 23-12-5 with a 2.22 goals-against and .926 save percentage. The six goals allowed were the most he'd given up in a single game this season.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker's website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects) for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.