The 12U Buffalo Junior Sabres have returned to Quebec City for the 55th Annual Quebec International Pee Wee Hockey Tournament. On Saturday the team played strong in two exhibition games: Buffalo tied Windsor 2-2, and then defeated the sixth-best team in USA, the Anaheim Jr. Ducks.
On Sunday, the Jr. Sabres took the ice at the Pepsi Coliseum in front of 8,000 fans in their first tournament game to face the 10th-ranked Colorado Thunderbirds. The Jr. Sabres got two goals from Leo Bax and some stellar goaltending from David Battisti to earn a 5-1 victory over the Thunderbirds.
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Buffalo got off to a fast start by scoring two goals in the first three minutes of the game. Bax opened the scoring just 1:15 into the game on a nice pass from Ryan Couglin. It would be just 90 seconds later when Josh Adimey hammered home a rebound to give Buffalo a 2-0 lead. Battisti came up big with a crucial save as Colorado earned a penalty shot early in the second period when the referee determined a Jr. Sabres player covered a puck in the goal crease. The Jr. Sabres relentless attack continued throughout the period, but Colorado’s goaltender made save after save to send the game into intermission still locked 2-0.
Between periods, Buffalo head coach and former Sabres defenceman Rory Fitzpatrick spoke to the team on the importance of not giving Colorado an inch. “I told the boys we were in their shoes down 2-0 multiple times and we battled back to win those types of games last year.”
Sure enough Colorado scored on the power play just three minutes into the third period to cut the lead in half. But the Jr. Sabres answered back quickly as Rochester native Casey Severo found the back of the net on a rebound with assists from Adimey and Eli Devereaux to make it 3-1. The next few minutes were back and forth with scoring chances from each team until Colby Seitz provided the insurance marker to make the game 4-1 with less than four minutes remaining. Bax would add an empty net goal for his second of the game to seal the 5-1 victory for the Buffalo Jr. Sabres.
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Buffalo will take on the top-ranked Burnaby (BC) Winter Club Bruins in a “win or go home” game on Wednesday. A loss will bring their tournament to a close, but a victory will send them off to face the winner of New York Rangers/Minuteman Flames game in the Quarterfinals.
The Jr. Sabres will have a team bonding day at a snow park on Monday, and then play Chumotov from the Czech Republic in an exhibition game on Tuesday. Stay tuned for more from Quebec City. -- by Ed Grudzinski