AMHERST, N.Y. — The Buffalo Junior Sabres organization has been around since the 1970s. They field teams from 9U all the way up.
In just the past six seasons alone, the organization has helped produce 31 NCAA Division I college hockey players, 27 NCAA Division III players, and five who went to major junior hockey (either the Ontario Hockey League or the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League).
NHL alums from the Jr. Sabres organization include Brian Gionta, Todd Marchant and Ryan Callahan, among others.
Though they have always benefited by their association with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and have fielded many successful teams, it's when they moved into the HarborCenter a few years ago along with all the support that came with it, that the level of play ratcheted up even more.
"It's great," said Jake Brozyna, Buffalo’s 15-Only coach, of their association with the Buffalo Sabres and the HarborCenter, a mixed-use development in downtown Buffalo that includes two hockey rinks. "They give us everything we need. We have top-notch training from the Impact [Sports Performance] guys. The Academy [of Hockey] guys are very supportive of our coaching staff and our team. It's great to be associated with them."
All that assistance has helped them get to the 2018 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier I Nationals in Green Bay, Wisconsin, after cruising through the USA Hockey New York District Tournament.
"We gave it to everybody pretty well," Brozyna admitted. "We didn't want to let an opportunity pass by."
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Youth Tier I
15-Only: Buffalo Jr. Sabres
16U: Buffalo Jr. Sabres
18U: PAL Jr. Islanders
Youth Tier II
14U: Skaneateles Lakers
16U: Massena/St. Lawrence Thunder
18U: Syracuse Blazers
Girls Tier I
14U: Valley Eagles
19U: Niagara Jr. Purple Eagles
Girls Tier II
16U: Brewster Lady Bulldogs
In four games, the Sabres outscored their opponents 41-6. They beat the Long Island Royals in the championship game, 10-3, a day after shutting out the Royals in pool play, 10-0. They also beat Mohawk Valley, 8-1, and Troy-Albany, 13-2.
Some of the Jr. Sabres’ top opponents in Green Bay will be Little Caesars (Buffalo lost their one game against them), Selects Academy (Buffalo split), St. Louis Blues AAA (Buffalo beat them in both meetings), Phoenix Jr. Coyotes (Buffalo won two out of three), and Boston Advantage (Buffalo took their sole meeting).
"A lot of top teams up there," Brozyna said. "We played a handful of them and they were all pretty good games, tough competition. Hopefully, we fare well."
The team's success relies on depth and complete team defense, making them a very difficult team to play against.
"We're a really, really deep team," Brozyna said. "We play a tight zone. We have a really good work ethic. Our forwards do a great job in our D-zone. A lot of backchecking. Our goaltending's been very good."
Scoring is by committee. "We got scoring from everybody," Brozyna accurately stated.
In the district tournament with the 41 goals scored, David Bunn had seven. After that, seven players had between three and five goals. Nearly every player had at least one goal. Every player — including a goalie —had at least a point.
Buffalo captain Declan McDonnell is a good two-way player who can score goals. But even he only got two in the district tournament as so many others contributed.
The Jr. Sabres 15-Only team will be looking to continue the organization's success at the Tier I national level in April.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.