It was do-or-die for the 12U Buffalo Jr. Sabres on Wednesday when they faced the Burnaby (BC) Bruins in an elimination game at the Quebec International Peewee Tournament. The Jr. Sabres brought a 3-0-1 team record into the game, while the full-season Bruins sported a 40-3 mark as the top-ranked team in Western Canada. The Bruins would prevail in the end, moving on with a hard-fought 2-1 OT win.
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Burnaby got off to a fast start scoring on a scramble in front of the net early the first period. They continued with a relentless attack but Buffalo goaltender Robbie Nuchereno made numerous big saves to keep Buffalo in the game and trailing by just one heading into the first intermission.
Buffalo brought the game even early in the second period courtesy of a Case McCarthy power play goal. Buffalo missed a few chances early, but McCarthy unleashed a blast past Burnaby netminder Georgi Wilson to make it 1-1. Rochester native Eli Devereaux picked up the lone assist on McCarthy’s goal.
Goaltending was the story of the game, as Nuchereno kept Buffalo in the game with countless big stops. Things got dicey for Buffalo late when defenseman Sydney Bard (Syracuse) was sent to the box with less than three minutes remaining when a Burnaby player stepped on her stick. But with their backs against the wall, Buffalo’s penalty kill was top notch as they killed the penalty to keep game locked at 1-1 heading into overtime.
Nuchereno came up big with a number of key saves early in overtime to keep it deadlocked at 1-1. But with just over two minutes left in overtime as both teams were battling for the puck, Buffalo forward Chase Nicholson to the box on a questionable call for body checking. Burnaby had a golden opportunity to end the game during the early stages of the man advantage, but Bard likely saved a goal with desperation shot block. Burnaby’s power play however proved to be too much as Julian Santalucia scored on a scrum in front of the net with just 1:24 left in overtime to advance and end the tournament for The Jr. Sabres.
“Just take a look through the program and you see Burnaby has put out dozens of current NHL players so we knew we would have our hands full,” said assistant coach Ed Grudzinski. “These kids proved that a team from Western New York could compete with any team in the world. I am very proud of their success and told the players they have no reason to hang their heads.”
The team will play an additional exhibition game Thursday afternoon against Whitby before returning home to their full-season teams. Although falling short of their ultimate goal the 12U Buffalo Jr. Sabres were very successful and continue to display the caliber of Western New York hockey when matched against the world best players. Until next year, that’s all from Quebec.