Another year, another chance for the Buffalo Sabres’ young talent to win the championship at the annual Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Mich.
The Sabres earned a spot in Monday night’s championship game against host Detroit (7 p.m., Radio 1520 AM) by dispatching Carolina, 7-4, Sunday behind monster games from 2012 first-round pick Zemgus Girgensons, 2010 third-round selection Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and 2013 third-round selection Nicholas Baptiste.
Girgensons finished with a goal and two assists as he had a hand three of Buffalo’s first four goals Sunday. Baptiste also had a goal and two assists – earning assists on two of the final three after Carolina had pulled within 4-3, while Gauthier-Leduc made his presence felt on the ice and on the scoresheet all game long, according to coach Chadd Cassidy.
The Sabres won the event in 2011 and are the defending champions because last year’s tournament was a casualty of the NHL Lockout.
“I think it’s great for our players to have the opportunity to play for the championship as we did in 2011 and build that expectation in our organziiation that we’re going to be a competitive team,” Cassidy said. “I think it’s a good showing. We have a bright future with the prospects we have.”
Williamsville’s Justin Bailey, a second-round pick last June, also scored for the Sabres – finishing off a 3-on-2 rush with a wicked slap shot to give Buffalo a 6-3 lead 6:04 into the third period.
Connor Knapp made 26 saves for the win as the Sabres have used three different goalies (Nathan Lieuwen and Andrey Makarov were the others) in each of their tournament wins. Cassidy said the coaching staff would discuss Sunday who to start in goal tonight.
Girgensons set up Johan Larsson and Gauthier-Leduc for goals during the Sabres’ three-goal first period. Girgensons made it 4-0 at 4:03 of the second period.
After the Hurricanes scored the next three goals, Baptiste – who scored in the first period – set up Eric Locke at 12:29 of the second to make it 5-3.
Baptiste, who earned his last point on Trainer Peter’s empty-net goal, leads the tournament in scoring with seven points (four goals), while Locke follows with six points (two goals).