Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ullmark on the mark. Rochester wins two of three over the weekend.

Reprinted with permission from

It's One Buffalo for Pegula Sports and Entertainment and fans of Western New York. With the Buffalo Bills on their NFL bye-week, the focus turned to hockey. Save for the World Series and one particular WGR host who, unfortunately for him today, is a devoted NY Mets fan (the Kansas City Royals won the Series 4-1.)

Although the sports-talk airwaves invariably come back the Bills quarterback situation (which if you listen too long will develop into worms eating away at your brain from the inside) the Western New York pro hockey scene had plenty positives. The Buffalo Sabres had a 3-1 record for the week including their first two-game winning-streak of the season to finish it off. After defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 at home on Friday the Sabres travelled to Brooklyn for their first appearance in the new home of the NY Islanders--Barclay Center--and came away with a 2-1 win.

Rookie goaltender Linus (pronounced, Lee-nus) Ullmark was sharp in net while allowing only one goal in each of those victories for Buffalo. The 6'4' 212 lb. native of Lugnvik, Sweden faced 58 shots and came away with a .966 save percentage. After last night's game in Brooklyn, Ullmark was quick to credit his teammates for his performance. "As a team we've become better and better," he told the post-game media at the Barclay Center, "We're buying in [to the system] every day. It's not me that's making the difference, it's the team that's making the difference every game, every night."

Ullmark continued to say that the team has "great confidence" in their style of play but also mentioned that he feels more comfortable in his game after an inauspicious start to his NHL career. Although the 4-3 loss at the hands of New Jersey was not 100% on him, it was a bit of a shaky beginning for him. He righted the ship and has Sabreland buzzing about his potential.

In his post-game presser after the New Jersey game, head coach Dan Bylsma told the media that Ullmark "looked like an NHL goalie," while goaltending coach Andrew Allen told Jon Vogl of the Buffalo News, “He may be young, but he’s a pro. You can tell in his composure and how he analyzes the game. He’s a real student of the game, and you can tell that he put the time in – not just working on his on-ice game but the mental side of it and analyzing different game situations.”

Everything Allen said of Ullmark was on display in the last two games. Bylsma continued with his praise of the young goalie last night. "Just a calm, cool, and collected demeanor in net," he told the press. Bylsma pointed to two instances with the team down by a goal where the puck got by Ullmark but didn't end up in the back of the net. "He just seems to have a calm demeanor in net and he came up big. He had three or four really big saves in the third that he made look easy, but they were big saves."

Kudos to Zemgus Girgensons who keeps fighting and battling hard while centering the third line. He came into last nights game with only one point (a goal, in OT) in 11 games. Last night he won a small puck battle at the Islanders blueline, kicked it into gear, and found Matt Moulson for the lay-up after barreling towards the net. The goal just over six minutes in the third period tied the game at 1-1 setting up the team for rookie Sam Reinhart's game-winner with just over six minutes left in the game.

Forward David Legwand lead a 2-on-1 break up the left side with Reinhart steaming towards the net on the right. The cagey veteran threw a crisp pass to Reinhart through defenseman Mark Streit in the slot. Reinhart corralled the puck and quickly snapped it home.

The play actually started behind the Buffalo net with defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo winning a battle and getting the puck to d-partner Mark Pysyk. Pysyk quickly sent it up the left wall to Jamie McGinn at the Sabres blueline. McGinn's tip of that pass is what sprung Legwand and Reinhart.

Buffalo played their best stretch of hockey last week and were oh-so-close to pulling out four wins. They played a great game at Pittsburgh on Thursday but it just wasn't in the cards as a late rally from a two-goal deficit came up just short.

Over in Rochester, the Americans had been off to a rough start to the 2015-16 season as they went 1-5 after opening their season with consecutive home wins. During that six game stretch they were outscored by a combined 32-13, including 23-8 while losing four in a row.

The Amerks dropped a 6-1 decision at Springfield against the Falcons (ARI) on Friday before coming away with consecutive road victories on their first back-to-back-to-back weekend of the season. Justin Bailey scored his first NHL goal against the Portland Pirates (FLA) on Saturday then lit the lamp again at Harford against the Wolfpack (NYR.)

Phil Varone scored his team-leading fourth and fifth goals against Springfield and Portland, respectively, while William Carrier notched his first goal of the season against the Pirates.

A quick look at some leaders from the Amerks to this point in the season:

Points:  Varone, Jason Akeson, 8
Goals:  Varone, 5
Assists:  Jean Dupuy, 6
Plus/Minus:  Carrier, plus-6
Plus/Minus (bottom):  Colby Robak, minus-9

Of note:  That 1-5 stretch for the Amerks put a hurting on individual plus/minus as there are only three players who've played in four or more games in the plus column--Carrier, 6; Dupuy, 5 and Bailey, 3. Two others, Matt Ellis and Bobby Sanguinetti, are even.

The Sabres are off until Thursday when they welcome the Tampa Bay Lightning to First Niagara Center. Rochester doesn't play again until Friday when the Binghamton Senators (OTT) visit Blue Cross Arena. 

Even with the World Series being over, Buffalo sports fans still may have plenty to talk about as the NFL trade-deadline is tomorrow. The Bills have a depleted receiving corps that could use a little bump as they're still in the mix for a wild-card spot.

It's all "One Buffalo" under the PSE umbrella and this fan will have a heightened interest tomorrow without much happening on the ice.

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