Darcy Regier has been insisting for some time that Buffalo is filled with stellar youth hockey players. It didn't take long for him to be proved right Friday night. Too bad for his team.
The Buffalo high school senior-age players blitzed their Regier-coached Rochester counterparts, 9-1, in HSBC Arena to claim the Scotty Bowman Cup in front of about 2,000 fans. It completed a Buffalo sweep as the juniors blanked Rochester, 2-0, in the physically played opener of the inaugural Scotty Bowman Showcase, created to give Western New York players a platform to show their skills to the numerous college and junior hockey representatives in attendance.
"It was a wonderful evening," Bowman said. "We all miss hockey, and this was a good replacement."
The suspense in the senior game disappeared quickly as Buffalo used odd-man rush after odd-man rush to take a 5-0 lead just 12 minutes after the opening faceoff. After that, the Buffalo players had two periods to get ready to meet the Hall of Fame coach who presented them with the cup that bears his name.
"What makes it is when you see the expression on the kids' faces," said Regier, the Sabres general manager. "The hype and the excitement, it's pretty neat. It's what hockey is all about."
Seven players scored for Buffalo, led by two goals each from Orchard Park and Buffalo Saints forward Brent Alexin and Matt Rang of Nichols and the Saints. Tyler Walser (Williamsville North, Amherst Midgets) added a goal and two assists, while Jeff Monnin (Nichols, Saints), Kevin Simson (Timon/St. Jude, Saints), Adam Bellows (Nichols, Saints) and Keith Blume (Jamestown, Jamestown Midgets) also scored.
It should have come as no surprise that a team featuring Alexin earned a victory. The 17-year-old has known success and nothing else. He's won four straight Western New York Club championships with the Quakers, and the Saints have won state titles the last two seasons and the national championship last season.
"I just happen to find teams that jell quickly and just get out there and win," said Alexin, the game's MVP. "I expected it to be kind of close in the beginning and then we were going to pull away . . .
"Everyone out there was great. The atmosphere, coaching, players, everyone was great. It was just an awesome event."
"Some of the plays we made were awesome," said Sabres and Buffalo seniors coach Lindy Ruff. "I thought some of the goals we scored were great plays. We gained a little momentum, and they made even better plays after that."
The junior game started with thunderous checks, and Lightning struck midway through the first period. Buffalo Lightning Junior A star defenseman Shane Sims roofed a rebound with 10:25 gone to open the scoring, finishing a play started by a drop pass from Matt Amico of Nichols and the Saints.
Sims, 17, from Williamsville North and the Buffalo Lightning, enjoyed Friday's hard-hitting nature. "It was a high-intensity game. I was surprised at how much hitting there was. It made the game better."
"I kind of left it up to them to set the tone of the game," said Buffalo Junior coach Grant Ledyard.
Buffalo's Matt Bessing (Cheektowaga, Saints) made it 2-0 with 5:54 left in the first period, fighting off defenseman Jamar Speight with one arm while driving toward the net.
Buffalo's goaltending trio of Derek Brennan (Grand Island), Jorden Komm (Williamsville North, Amherst Midgets) and Josh Shamrock (Canisius, Wheatfield) turned aside 29 shots.
The Sabres made sure the event had an NHL feel from the outset. In addition to former Sabres players as coaches -- Ric Seiling, Danny Gare and Rob Ray led Rochester with Regier while Ledyard, Darryl Shannon and Larry Playfair helped Ruff pilot Buffalo's teams -- "Hockey Night in Canada" announcer Harry Neale acted as master of ceremonies,. and Sabres announcers Rick Jeanneret and Jim Lorentz did live play-by-play that was piped over the loud speakers.
"Rick Jeanneret announcing my name was just awesome," Komm said. The Sabres Alumni Association, which Playfair heads, gave $1,000 scholarships to Buffalo's Simson and Rochester's Joseph Christiano.