The final day of the Buffalo Sabres’ prospects challenge was culminated by a matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and rival Boston Bruins. The Bruins came off of an exciting victory over the New Jersey Devils last night. Physicality was a theme that would carry over for the Bruins. The Sabres did their best to match it, Coach Randy Cunneyworth wanted, “to send a message.” However, their attempts resulted in a total of four first period penalties. Two of those penalties allowed Boston to pot two power play goals. Frank Vatrano had another to add to his two goals from last night, one of which was the overtime winner. The other came from Linus Arnesson tip on a Czarnik slap shot. Czarnik had assists on both of those goals, making it four in two games for him. Vatrano and Czarnik, whom both went undrafted this year have been impact players for the Bruins in the Prospects Challenge tournament.
Boston had clearly brought their good physical play from last night into the early part of the game against the Sabres. There were several scrums behind the nets after a few plays, and the Sabres had the big hits of the period. William Carrier, who was the second round pick for the Sabres in 2013 dumped Anton Blidh into the Buffalo bench, bringing a barrage of claps and “oh’s” from the crowd. The Sabres had to overcome penalty trouble again, this time a double-minor high sticking from the 2015 second overall pick himself Jack Eichel. Buffalo did manage to kill it off however. The Sabres also put together a couple quality scoring chances. One of them squeaked by Bruins’ goaltender Zane McIntyre. The goal was a result of a Dave Henley slap shot that Vaclav Karabacek that cut the Bruins’ lead in half. That was just the beginning of the excitement for the Sabres.
To provide the offense with a bit of a spark, Coach Cunneyworth made the move to change up the lines and put Eichel-Reinhart-Rodrigues on a line together to start the third. Cunneyworth noted, “for their first time on the ice playing together, they had a great chemistry.” Eichel added,” [Reinhart] is so good all over the ice and he’s so smart and easy to play with.” To really get the energy flowing in the arena, Sabres’ Brady Austin and Bruins’ Justin Hickman fought it out at center ice. Austin connected on a few great punches and ended up dragging Hickman to the ice and fell on top of him. The crowed voiced their appreciation and was the beginning of a huge momentum shift for the Sabres. Coach Cunneyworth reiterated that they “were trying to set a tone” and that was a byproduct of the camaraderie that Cunneyworth was trying to spread through the team. Just after Senyshyn penalty Jack Eichel threw a beauty of a pass across the ice to Brycen Martin who finished the tip in to tie the game. Eichel had gotten his second assist of the tournament. Scoring chances were coming easily to Buffalo as the clock was ticking down. The new Eichel line was getting plenty of time on the ice, Cunneyworth pointed out that he was putting them back on the ice “at least every third shift” and even asked Eichel, “if he had any wind left in him,” which he clearly did to get the offense as chance to win the game in the last minutes of regulation.
For the second night in a row the Prospects Challenge game was going to overtime. This year the players have to accustom themselves to the new format of a five minute 3-on-3 overtime. Eichel was a fan of it mentioning, “I’m kind of a fan of it and it’s a lot of fun because you have more open ice, but it can be easy to get lost out there.” Eichel clearly is a fan of the new open space recalling that he has never played in that type of format.
The final records for the teams in the Prospect Challenge were:
The Sabres going 2-0-0 scoring a total of 9 goals can be a promising sign for the future, and now comes the wait for the preseason when the Sabres play in Minnesota on September 21st at 8 p.m. at the Xcel Energy Center. Two days later on the 23rd they open up the home preseason schedule against Ottawa at 7 p.m. in the First Niagara Center.