The Buffalo Sabres’ annual French Connection three-on-three tournament is a yearly display of the team’s talent amongst their younger players, and this year’s version proved to be no exception.
With Team Martin emerging victorious over Team Perreault via shootout – Casey Mittelstadt’s goal against Jake Kielly standing as the game-winner – it left observers feeling positive about the brightness of the Sabres’ future.
“I really liked what our development coaches and staff have done, and they have turned this camp into a development set for skills,” coach Phil Housley said. “Learning how to become more of a pro, learning how to use all those skills and then putting it all together for the tournament today.
“You could see the guys implementing what they’ve learned throughout the week into today. It was great to see them compete for something on the line, and we’ve got a good vibe going right now.”
Assistant general manager Randy Sexton agreed.
“This is a very fun part of the season,” Sexton said. “We try not to use this camp as an evaluation tool, it’s really just about getting to know the kids more. Especially some of the college free agents that we don’t know all that well, but we came away feeling like we’ve built some strong relationships with each and every one of these kids, and that we know them better as people.”
Rasmus Dahlin, who didn’t score a goal during the tournament yet impressed with his skills, was astounded by the fan support. The HarborCenter was at capacity throughout the morning (1,800).
“It’s been amazing,” Dahlin said. “They’ve been great… I’m just super-impressed they even know who I am. I know they love hockey and I will try to win hockey games so you can give back to them.”
The results of the tournament are as follows:
Team Robert 3, Team Perreault 1
Goals by William Worge-Kreu and Matej Pekar gave Team Robert a 2-0 lead, but Andrew Oglevie put Team Perrault on the board a short while later. Vasily Glotov then tapped home the winner past Kielly.
Team Hasek 2, Team Robert 1
Despite goaltender Hunter Shepard standing on his head for Team Robert, Team Hasek won the game with goals from Christopher Brown and a shootout tally by Brendan Guhle. Cole Coskey scored for Team Robert.
Team Perrault 2, Team Martin 1
Brandon Biro opened the scoring with Lawrence Pilut knotting it up at one apiece a bit later. Connor Mackey sealed the deal for Team Perrault – meaning each goal for the team in navy blue was scored by a camp invitee.
Team Robert 3, Team Martin 1
2018 fourth-round draft pick Matej Pekar opened the scoring for Team Robert, yet Mittelstadt got on the stat sheet a bit later. Following a tussle between the two – Pekar had been getting under the skin of multiple players throughout the weekend – Coskey and Glotov tickled the twine to end the game in favor of Team Robert.
“That’s my shot to kind of piss him off, get in his head and try to win the game for the team,” Pekar said. “It’s way more fun when you see Casey getting pissed at you
“I’m not a super-skilled guy who can just dangle all over five guys and score goals. In order to create some offense, I’ve got to play like that.”
Mittelstadt laughed the incident off later.
“It’s just hockey, I guess, two competitive guys,” Mittelstadt said. “I don’t think it’s anything. Leave it on the ice. I’m sure it will be fine when we get off it.”
Team Perrault 2, Team Hasek 1
After goals by Victor Olofsson and Vito Bavaro, the game went to a shootout, where Pascal Aquin won it for Team Perrault.
Team Martin 1, Team Hasek 0
The only score of the game came courtesy of Mittelstadt, who beat Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen via the backhand on a breakaway.
Team Martin 4, Team Robert 0
Team Martin roared out to a 1-0 lead thanks to Brett Murray and never looked back, as Pilut, Mittelstadt and Miska Kukkonen all got into the scoring act to lift their team into the final.
Team Perreault 3, Team Hasek 1
Neither team was able to find the back of the net until Pascal Aquin made it 1-0 with 1:05 left in the contest. Biro added a pair of goals of his own, while Brendan Guhle kept Team Hasek from laying a goose egg.
Team Martin 3, Team Perrault 2
Eric Cornel and Mittelstadt gave Team Martin a 2-0 lead just 27 seconds apart of each other, but Olofsson and Oglevie tied the contest with two minutes left and 18 seconds to go, respectively. Mittelstadt clinched the championship for Team Martin via the shootout.
“I always have high expectations for myself, so coming in here this week I wanted to be one of the best guys and wanted to play as best as I could,” Mittelstadt said. “I got to know a lot of people here last year – which was my first year here – so knowing more guys now, I was more comfortable and not nervous like last year, so that was good for me.”
Pics Courtesy of Jessica Helen Brant/FT300L