Tyler Gjurich and the Buffalo Jr. Sabres have the early advantage in the opening OJHL playoff series with Burlington. (Graeme Reid OJHL Images)
Max Mikowski, a former St. Francis High School prep player, scored the overtime game-winner to finish off the Buffalo Jr. Sabres’ rally from a two-goal deficit to take Game One of their first round OJHL playoff series, 6-5, over the Burlington Cougars on Monday (Feb. 25).
Mikowski also scored early in the game, evening the score 1-1 with a short-handed goal. The Jr. Sabres took the 2-1 lead, but Burlington scored the next three goals to hold a 4-2 advantage. The Jr. Sabres got one back late in the second period and then Tyler Gjurich scored twice in a three and a half minute span to tie the game and then put Buffalo into a 5-4 lead. The Cougars responded with the equalizer with just over two minutes left to play in the third. Mikowski put the game away just under two minutes into the sudden death period. Jr. Sabres goaltender Parker Gahagen stopped 30 shots.
In closing out the regular season, goalie Bobby Bloomfield of Blasdell won his ninth game in a row as the Buffalo Jr. Sabres 5-3 over the Mississauga Chargers at the Northtown Center at Amherst on Sunday (Feb. 17). The team’s back-up to Gaughan has put together an impressive streak for a rookie goaltender in the league.
Also of note, Gjurich became only the second player in the history of the franchise to score 50 or more goals. He also recently confirmed his commitment to college hockey powerhouse Maine. Current Montreal Canadiens captain Brian Gionta is the only other player in the history of this junior franchise to score 50 or more goals in a single season, netting 57 goals in the 1996-97 season when the franchise was known as the Niagara Scenics.
The Jr. Sabres clinched the Ontario Junior Hockey League West Division regular season title on Feb. 23 with their 8-2 win on the road against the Orangeville Flyers. They just beat out the Georgetown Raiders in the division.
Buffalo and Burlington will alternate home dates in this best-of-seven series. The series will return to the Northtown Center at Amherst for Game Three on Friday, March 1 at 8:30 p.m. Eight teams in two conferences will compete to win the Frank Buckland Memorial Trophy. The OJHL playoff winner qualifies to compete in the Ontario regional Dudley Hewitt Cup playoffs. That winner then advances to the Canadian national Junior “A” championship, the Royal Bank Cup, in May in Summerside, Prince Edward Island.