New Jersey capitalizes on overtime opportunity to secure their first victory of the Prospects Tournament
After an even three periods of hockey, the Buffalo Sabres’ youngsters fell to the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in overtime Friday night in their first game of the Prospects Challenge at Harbor Center. While a handful of lesser known players stole the show, several of the Sabres’ veteran prospects were disappointingly quiet.
New Jersey opened the scoring early courtesy of 2013 third round pick Ryan Kujawinski. The goal would be the first of three for the 22-year-old forward who had spent the past two season playing for the Devils AHL affiliate in Albany. Kujawinski’s hat-trick performance stole the show with his most important goal coming in the waning minutes of regulation to tie the game and force overtime.
The momentum appeared to shift in the Sabres’ favor during the third period when Colin Blackwell scored his second tally of the evening at 6:48, however the Devils’ strong fore-check proved to be too much for goaltender Jonas Johanssen. Through the first two frames of the contest, Johansson stopped 17 of 19 shots faced, many of which came in bunches at point-blank range.
Fan favorite, Cliff Pu scored the only other Sabres’ goal in the second period. The crowd erupted in applause when the 19-year-old Ontario native even the score at 2-2.
To the dismay of the fans at Harbor Center, several veteran prospects were ultimately invisible for the blue and gold. While Justin Bailey seemed to control the pace of the game at times, he was ultimately left off the score sheet. Nic Baptiste appeared to struggle in the offensive zone as well. At least Hudson Fasching was able to notch an assist to his name so that the Sabres’ elder statesmen weren’t totally left off the score sheet.
The Sabres’ brass will hope to see better performances from players like Bailey, Baptiste and Facshing, all of whom are in contention for the final right wing slot on the Buffalo roster this season. While later round picks like Pu and Devante Stephens acquitted themselves nicely, more needs to be seen from the higher profile prospects.
Even 2016 first-rounder Alex Nylander was largely irrelevant, though he did set up several nice opportunities in the offensive zone, none of which his teammates were able to capitalize on.
All of the prospects will get another opportunity to show what they’ve got tomorrow night. Buffalo will face-off against the Boston Bruins youngsters at 7PM at Harbor Center.