Tonawanda News

April 15, 2013

Locals compete in Sabres' showcase

By MICHAEL MROZIAK
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — For the past nine years, amateur hockey season hasn't truly ended until the Bowman Cup. Last night inside the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, the Buffalo Sabres hosted their annual showcase which puts teams of Buffalo area prospects against a similar all-star compilation from the Rochester area.

For those selected to represent the Buffalo and Rochester areas on the ice at First Niagara Center on Monday night, there was a lot of pride at stake. Just ask the Buffalo high school senior team that routed their Rochester rivals, 9-0.

"It's a great honor to play in this game," said St. Joe's senior Zachary Klapp. "It's a special moment to play against the guys in Rochester. A lot of bragging rights are on the line here and of course you want to go out and win."

The Bowman Cup showcase features three games. In addition to the high school senior squads there are also squads made up of high school juniors and those playing in junior hockey or prep schools. For the older squads, especially the high school seniors and junior/prep players, it's also an important opportunity for many of these players to get noticed by teams already planning for next season.

A handful of scouts and coaches were in the seats watching players. Among them was Michael Peca, the former NHL star turned head coach and general manager of the Buffalo Junior Sabres.

"I think a lot of times, a lot of these players might stand alone on their winter teams," Peca said. "Bringing everybody on a team in an all-star format where their ability is more comparable, now you see how they adjust and how they keep up with the pace of play."

The players seemed to adjust well, at least within Buffalo's lineup.

"When you put on the Buffalo sweater you're all teammates out there," said Klapp. "You play for each other and hopefully get the 'W'."

The high school junior squads opened the three-game series, with Team Buffalo featuring Kenmore West's Stephen Hermann. The juniors fell to Rochester 4-1. In the final game, Buffalo's junior/prep squad defeated Rochester, 3-2.

Joining Klapp on Team Buffalo's senior squad was Kenmore West's Tom Ryan, who got an assist in their 9-0 rout.

"It felt good. A real exciting group of guys to play with," said Ryan of his former Buffalo-area rivals turned teammates. "You've got a grudge against someone throughout the season but when you get here you become friends and you talk. It's a good time at the Bowman Cup."

Among those on hand to take in the annual games was the man for whom the Cup was named, Hall of Famer and the National Hockey League's all-time winningest coach, Scotty Bowman, whose career included a stop in Buffalo. He remains a local resident.

Does he favor Team Buffalo to win the Bowman Cup every year, or does he simply want to see the best team win?

"No, I don't know much about the players," Bowman admitted. "You hope that it's as close as the game can be."

The players need not worry if Scotty Bowman isn't as familiar with their names.  It's the scouts and coaches who were taking names.  With many programs about to hold their spring tryouts in preparation for next season, some of the players are hoping last night will be only the first of many times these coaches may call out their names.

For others, it's a nice way to cap off their hockey careers. Ryan is in the latter category, as he revealed when asked about his future plans.

"I'll be attending UB. My hockey career is over. I'm more about baseball right now," said Ryan.

Follow Michael online on Twitter @MrozGazette or email him at michael.mroziak@niagara-gazette.com