ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The HarborCenter has changed the dynamic for hockey in downtown Buffalo.
The new $170 million complex includes two NHL-size rinks with seating capacity of 1,800+ in the feature rink, a training and sports medicine facility, a skills development center, numerous locker rooms, a classroom, a small theater, restaurants, a soon to open Marriott hotel, and a parking garage, along with a walkway to First Niagara Center.
Practicing and playing out of the new state-of-the-art facility has paid great dividends for the Buffalo Jr. Sabres.
This past weekend, the Tier I 14U Jr. Sabres locked up a New York state championship and a bid to the Toyota-USA Hockey National Championships in nearby Amherst, N.Y. on March 26-30.
The Jr. Sabres swept through the round robin, beating Team Westchester 4-3, crushing the host Rochester Youth 14-0, and then defeating the Syracuse Nationals 6-4.
In the semifinals, the Jr. Sabres beat the Long Island Royals 3-1 to set up a rematch with Syracuse for the title.
After Buffalo jumped out to a 2-0 lead, the Nationals tied the game before the end of the second period. At 9:42 of the final period, Buffalo got the game winner, and Trevor Peca sealed the win on an empty-net goal. Peca’s dad, Michael Peca, is a former Buffalo Sabres captain who now coaches the 14U Jr. Sabres.
“It was a great game, back and forth,” Michael Peca said. “We played Syracuse five or six times this year, and when two great teams get together it’s an exciting hockey game. It’s physical. It’s got an edge to it. In the end, both teams are full of tremendously talented, wonderful kids.
“We saw the best of New York state today. Our kids worked their tails off all year, and I’m pretty proud of them.”
The Jr. Sabres 18U team also won the state tournament. It beat the Buffalo Saints 2-1 in its championship game, Meanwhile, the 16U Jr. Sabres made it to the semifinals before losing 4-2 to their crosstown rivals, the Buffalo Regals.
Peca credited the program’s new facility with helping the Jr. Sabres this season.
“It’s such a benefit to our program to have that facility,” Peca said. ”But it’s what the facility provides for us that is special.”
Now Peca turns his sights to the national championships.
“Our goal is to be competitive,” he said. ”We’ve been competitive with everybody in the country this year. Recently we played the Chicago Mission to a 2-1 loss. We’re big, strong and fast. We’re going to be a tough opponent for anybody.”
Not only do the Jr. Sabres have the HarborCenter to make them tough, but they also have the advantage of playing the national championships in their home state.
“It’s going to be great,” Peca said. ”To have the support of family and friends and to be able to fill the rink up, it’s going to be special for the kids. But anybody who knows who’s been around youth hockey, your family and your support staff means so much, so to have all of them there in Buffalo to be able to take part in all that is incredible.”
Family support, home crowd and residing in one of the finest facilities in the country could be a winning combination for any of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres teams this year and in the future.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.