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JR. SABRES LOOK TO BUILD ON STRONG START

Wednesday, 10.03.2012 / 2:10 PM / News
By Derek Wangler  - Digital Media Intern
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JR. SABRES LOOK TO BUILD ON STRONG START
The Junior Sabres are off to a great start this season, going 6-2 in the month of September. They are currently tied for second in the Southwest Conference\u2019s West Division with 12 points, just two points behind Burlington. Buffalo\u2019s quick start also garnered them honorable mention in the Canadian Junior Hockey League\u2019s weekly Top 20 ranking that was released on October 1.

Looking to get your hockey fix right here in Buffalo? Well then you need to check out the Buffalo Junior Sabres. They are Junior “A” team based out of the Northtown Center in Amherst, and play a 55-game schedule in the highly competitive Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL). The Jr. Sabres are the only US-based team in the 22-team league.

The team is coached by former Sabre Michael Peca, and he’s already got a good feeling about this year’s squad, after a 23-21-5 finish in 2011-12.

“We’re pretty optimistic about our season,” said Peca, who also serves as the team’s general manager. “It’s still relatively early, but I haven’t seen a team out there that I can say is any better than ours.”

The Junior Sabres are off to a great start this season, going 6-2 in the month of September. They are currently tied for second in the Southwest Conference’s West Division with 12 points, just two points behind Burlington. Buffalo’s quick start also garnered them honorable mention in the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s weekly Top 20 ranking that was released on October 1.

“I’m quite pleased. I don’t think you’re ever going to have everything either go your way or go as planned, but everyday we’re seeing improvement,” said Peca.

After lighting the lamp on the power play as often as the Junior Sabres have, it’s no wonder why they’re winning games.

“Our power play is exceptional, which is due to a lot of the skill that we have,” said Peca.

Exceptional may even be an understatement. The Junior Sabres have tallied 13 power play goals in 8 games. Ryan Schmelzer is leading the way in that category scoring five of his six goals with the man advantage.

The team features a mix of local talent and out-of-town prospects, all looking to get exposure to hopefully receive a college scholarship. Team captain Derek Patterson – a native of Calgary, Alberta – didn’t just end up in Buffalo by chance. Patterson’s dad, Colin, played for the Buffalo Sabres from 1991-1993.

“My dad knew Larry Playfair and it seemed like a great fit,” said Patterson. “[The Junior Sabres have] a real good program with a lot of exposure.”

Patterson’s teammates Brian Ruff (Lindy Ruff) and Ryall Ledyard (Grant Ledyard) also have family ties to the Sabres organization.

Some other out-of-town players include forwards Tyler Gjurich (Hatfield, Pa.), the team’s leader in points with 13; Alex Dagnal (Pittsburgh, Pa.), tied for the team lead in goal scoring with six; defenseman Sean Federow (Niagara Falls, Ont.), who has racked up seven assists this season – all of them coming on the power play.

Schmelzer, one of the team’s assistant captains, took a more conventional path to the Junior Sabres.

“I played for the Junior Blades (an affiliate of the Junior Sabres), [then] tried out last year and they liked me enough to keep me around for this season,” said the native of East Amherst.

Schmelzer is currently in a tie for the team lead in goals, netting six in eight games.

Some other local players include forwards David Seward (Williamsville), who has tallied seven points so far; Josh Kielich (Orchard Park), who has six points on the season; and Max Mikowski (Cheektowaga), also with six points.

Despite their different ways onto the roster, the team is clicking just fine on the ice.

“The guys have come together really quickly,” says Peca. “It’s a real close knit group of kids in there.”

Over the next 12 days the Junior Sabres play seven games, three of which are at home – starting with tonight’s tilt against North York at 7:30 p.m. All home games are played at the Northtown Center in Amherst. Tickets are just $7 for adults; $3 for students and seniors.

The Jr. Sabres hit the road this weekend for a pair of games. On Saturday they’ll be in Burlington to face the division-leading Cougars at 8 p.m., followed by an afternoon contest in North York at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

The Oakville Blades will be the opposition when the Sabres return home on Tuesday, October 9 at 7:30 p.m. Then the Hamilton Red Wings pay a visit to Buffalo on Friday, October 12 (7:30 p.m.), as the Sabres kick off a run of three straight weekend games. On Saturday, October 13, they host Orangeville (4:30 p.m.), and travel to Milton to take on the Icehawks on Sunday, October 14 at 3:30 p.m.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Hodgson 72 20 24 -26 44
T. Ennis 80 21 22 -25 43
D. Stafford 70 16 18 -19 34
C. Ehrhoff 79 6 27 -27 33
C. Stewart 63 15 11 0 26
C. Conacher 79 7 19 1 26
T. Myers 62 9 13 -26 22
Z. Girgensons 70 8 14 -6 22
M. Foligno 74 7 12 -17 19
J. McBain 69 6 11 -13 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
M. Neuvirth 4 8 2 .921 2.78
J. Enroth 4 17 5 .911 2.82