It may not have counted, but don't tell that to the 8,725 fans who made the trip down to First Niagara Center to watch the Sabres top prospects. Team White, featuring Sam Reinhart, Nikita Zadorov, Mark Pysyk, and Brendan Lemieux downed Team Blue 5-1.
The players who put it in the net weren't exactly the ones fans were expecting, as four of the six goals were scored by undrafted free agents. Jerome Leduc (formally Jerome Gauthier-Leduc) broke the tie in the first period. Goals from Team White's Patrick Russell and Drake Caggiula extended the lead but a Jonathon Martin goal kept Blue in the mix.
White pulled away in the third, a period that included a surprising scrimmage scrap between Justin Kea and Anthony Florentino. Nicholas Baptiste's goal and Caggiula's empty netter put the nail in the coffin.
The young defenseman looked at the top of their game, especially Rasmus Ristolainen. One could argue that he was the best player on the ice. Zadorov showed his ability to use his big frame, whether it was through a hit or simply pushing someone off the puck.
Despite the fact that the sides were playing their teammates the scrimmage was rather chippy. Zemgus Girgensons had a big hit on Sam Reinhart in the first period, and was physical throughout. To no one's surprise Brendan Lemieux and JT Compher were frequently involved in the skirmishes.
Speaking of Reinhart, he showed his hockey IQ with some crisp passing but did get caught a few times in the defensive zone. One instance led to Blue's only goal on the night. It's clear that he's been put in a leadership role already.
Linus Ullmark had an impressive night in net for the White team, allowing no goals in his half of game action. He was replaced for the second half of the game by Jonas Johansson who was equally good, including a point-blank double-save on Ristolainen that had the crowd oohing and aahing.
William Carrier, who the Sabres acquired from the Blues in the Ryan Miller/Steve Ott trade, had a solid game. He showed off his stickhandling ability on numerous occasions. He'll be a player to keep an eye on in Rochester this season.
It's worthy of note the Team Blue which had more players with NHL experience, like Ristolainen, Girgensons, Jake McCabe, and Mikhail Grigorenko was the one blown out. You could argue Team White had more to prove on the night.
Here are the highlights:
After the scrimmage, Americans coach Chad Cassidy told reporters that Matt Hackett is still far from healed. He'll likely be out until December or January, opening the door for Nathan Lieuwen and Andrey Makarov to split duties in Rochester.
The scrimmage was very symbolic of the new culture the Sabres are putting into place. Fans are excited, the talent is overflowing, and things are moving in a positive direction. How many other cities can sell out the lower bowl for a scrimmage? Many fans probably left hoping they get to see some of these players sooner rather than later.
A look at tonight's impressive Sabres crowd. They've opened up the 300s. pic.twitter.com/IXQjcivGRH— Jack Goods (@GoodsOnSports) July 15, 2014
The Sabres won't be skating tomorrow, but they'll be back resuming normal practices on Thursday morning. They won't have time to rest though, as they'll be taking part in off-ice workouts.