Sabres quest begins with Traverse City title

When Terry Pegula took control of the Buffalo Sabres with promises of a winning culture, Western New York hockey fans had no idea it would begin this early.

Victory celebrated in Traverse City
The Pegula Era's first training camp ramped up properly Wednesday, as the Sabres rookies defeated the New York Rangers, 5-2, to capture first place at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament. Marcus Foligno paced the Sabres prospects with a pair of goals, while Luke Adam posted a goal and an assist. Nathan Lieuwen made 21 saves to earn the win. Despite being outshot by a 23-22 margin, the Sabres never trailed en route to earning the title in their first-ever appearance in the highly scouted tourney.

The Sabres rode their beefy top line of Luke Adam (6'2, 203 lbs), Zack Kassian (6'3, 226), and Marcus Foligno (6'3, 216) early to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Adam, the reigning AHL Most Outstanding Rookie, snapped a high wrister over the shoulder of Scott Stajcer to get the Sabres on the board at 10:17. Just over three minutes later, the Newfoundland native would cause a turnover that allowed Kassian to find Foligno in front for an early two-goal lead. The Rangers were able to halve the deficit at 13:44 when 2011 first-round pick J.T. Miller beat Nathan Lieuwen cleanly from the slot.

The momentum shifted in the favor of the quick-footed blueshirts in the second period, but they were only able to capture a single tally as Chris Bourque capitalized on a Nick Crawford turnover at the top of the faceoff circle to knot the game 2-2 heading into the final frame.

Before the start of the third period, Rangers bench boss Ken Gernander set a goal for his squad to fire "25-30 shots on goal" in the final period. The Sabres apparently had different designs.

Corey Tropp, who earlier engaged in the game's only fight with former Niagara IceDog Jason Wilson, notched the game-winning goal just 1:28 in when he took a Phil Varone pass down the right side to beat Stajcer with high blast. The tournament-clinching marker caps a successful summer for the ex-Michigan State Spartan after the 6'0 forward potted a hat trick in the final Development Camp scrimmage.

With the Rangers pressing late, the Sabres were able to close the tourney with a pair of breakaway goals by Daniel Catenacci and Foligno, his second of the night.

Catenacci's goal with five minutes to play was a great hand-eye play from start-to-finish. Former Erie Otter Shawn Szydlowski picked a neutral zone pass out of mid-air, and immediately fed it to a breaking Catenacci, who made a deft backhand deke to give the Sabres the 4-2 lead.

The Sabres size advantage was put on display in the opening minutes when 6'4 rearguard Brayden McNabb wiped out 5'9 sniper Christian Thomas with a thunderous hit at the blueline. McNabb, who was suspended for a similarly timed hit on Colorado prospect Joey Hishon at the Memorial Cup in May, served two minutes for elbowing and drew some post-whistle attention for the balance of the period. Aside from the aforementioned scrap though, the game didn't escalate physically.

With a good read on his batch of youngsters, Sabres GM Darcy Regier will now sit with his hockey department to decide who will remain in Buffalo when the Sabres open camp over the weekend. Much like they did a year ago with Foligno, Kassian, and McNabb, it's reasonable to think that one or two CHL hopefuls (Mark Pysyk, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc) will stay for NHL pre-season exposure before retreating for their junior campaigns.

The Sabres will begin their NHL exhibition schedule Monday at home against the Carolina Hurricanes.
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