Dylan Cozens makes a new fan, starting the Sabers’ drive to victory with another big goal

Still jubilant as he came off the ice Thursday, Dylan Cousins ​​held the stick he used to score the game-winning goal and volleyed it past New York’s Ilya Sorokin to cap off the celebration of Ryan Miller’s legacy in Buffalo with a Sabers victory. .

As the Cozens made his way to the dressing room to continue the celebration, he ran into Miller’s 7-year-old son, Buddy, who was waiting in the hallway for his father. Instead of adding hockey memorabilia to his collection, the Cozens handed both of them over to the boy to give Buddy, Ryan, and the rest of the Miller family another memory of a night they’ll never forget.

“It wasn’t something I told him to do,” Ryan recalled during the MSG broadcast on Saturday afternoon. “I’m so pulled away from doing something else. No one around, just these two alone. Give him the baton. New favorite player, by far.”

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Cozens gave Bodhi Memorial again Saturday afternoon in front of another sellout crowd at the KeyBank Center. With his back again, Cousins ​​manipulated Anaheim Ducks winger Jacob Silverberg and scored the Sabers’ first goal in a 6-3 victory with a quick, high shot on goaltender John Gibson.

The goal helped the Sabers get another fast start on the day when Miller dropped the puck with Boddy at his side in a celebratory showdown between Gibson and American-born teammate Craig Anderson.

Buffalo’s two-goal lead evaporated in the second period on Saturday, but took the lead again by scoring three times in the third set, including on a double at 5:55 by Viktor Olofsson, to pull away from the win. Peyton Cripps also scored twice and Jeff Skinner scored on the power play in the first period. They improved to 23-19-2 and caught up in the Eastern Playoff race.

“These were some big wins for us,” Cozens said.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 34 saves for his 12th win in 18 games since joining the club in November, while the Ducks (13-29-5) continued their free fall to the bottom of the Pacific Division. Trevor Zegras scored twice for Anaheim in the second period to help secure a 3-3 tie in the second period.

This was another signing Cozens showed off in his breakout season. The Sabers’ dynamic two-way center has 16 goals and 42 points—the latter more than all but one player 21 or younger in the NHL—with 10 multi-point performances in 45 games. Cozens is developing into the player former general manager Jason Botterill envisioned when the Sabers selected him with the seventh pick in the 2019 draft.

Gradually, Cozens developed into a solid driving tour. His latest first-period feat showed patience and a killer instinct. In seasons past, Cozens may have hesitated to see if there was a passing pass to get a pinch hit for a teammate. Not anymore.

After collecting a Rasmus Dahlin pass in the no-man’s land, Cozens crossed the blue line and lunged to manipulate Silfverberg into falling to the ice to try and block a shot. Cousins ​​then looped around the Ducks’ wing, drove to the net and slammed the ball into the top of the net for a 1-0 lead at 9:53 into the game.

“I think it’s just natural growth combined with competitiveness and talent,” said Sabers coach Don Granato. “When you look at his age, he’s so young. He was obviously younger last year, he even turned so young last year. And when you compete and work and you have the talent and the skill that he has, you keep getting better. During the season, players can step back and reflect on the year and breathe in. And so there’s usually exponential growth for the younger players from the last game of the season to the first game of the next year.”

Cousins ​​has 34 points in his last 32 games and has already surpassed his offensive production from 2021-22, when he scored 13 goals and 38 points in 79 games.

Going into Saturday, Cozens is third on the team in single-scoring chances in 5-on-5 situations, according to NaturalStatTrick, and his streak with JJ Peterka and Jack Quinn poses a scoring threat every time he takes the ice.

Cozens is set to be the next member of the Sabers’ young corps to receive a contract extension. He is a restricted free agent this summer. General Manager Kevin Adams will want to sign the Cozens to a long-term contract, like the seven-year deal that Tage Thompson signed in August.

“I’m very happy with the way the first half here has been,” Cozens said. “I just want to keep building and getting better every day, every game. Just keep working to reach my full potential.”

Fans were unable to attend games at KeyBank Center when the Cozens first arrived in Buffalo in January 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It wasn’t until last season that he and the others on the team got to know just how passionate Western New York hockey fans are. And though he grew up on the other side of the continent in the Yukon Territory, he became the latest in a long line of Sabers who have embraced the meaning of wearing the emblem and representing the community.

Ryan Miller’s night was a precursor to the Swordsmen who came before the Cozens. It was a chance to meet Miller and other alumni who made the trip to watch the franchise’s all-time winningest goalie raise his number 30 to the rafters and be inducted into the Sabers Hall of Fame. Cozens’ gesture, when Miller wasn’t even there to witness Boddy receiving the stick and puck, showed that his command was not limited to his playing on the ice.

“I thought it was the stick I scored the game-winning goal with in overtime there, so I thought it might be a special memory for him to remember that game and that special night his father was honored,” Cozens said. “He was in the hallway afterward, and it seemed like the right thing to do.”

Here are other notes from the game:

That’s Olofsson’s best since arriving in the NHL in 2019. The 27-year-old winger’s third-period goal on Saturday, one run on a perfect cross by defender Ilya Lyubushkin, gave the Sabers a 4-goal lead. 3 lead with 17:48 left.

Olofsson added another later in the game when he intercepted the ball in the no-man’s land and scored on a breakaway to set a new career high with 21 goals of the season.

There’s a noticeable difference in the Sabers’ play when they’re well rested, so Granato didn’t have the skate on Friday. They were the faster and better team in the third period against Anaheim. The Sabers finished with 39 shots on goal and 61 shot attempts.

“We weren’t new to matches, so okay, we’ll take this opportunity to rest yesterday knowing there will be pressure today to perform,” Granato said. “We haven’t lived up to our personal expectations in a couple of games before that in the last two weeks, so it’s been great for our players to get that going.”

This was Lyubushkin’s best game this season. He had three assists and three shots on goal in 17:32 of ice time. It is no coincidence that his play began to improve after time was lost due to a lower body injury. Granato confirmed that Lyubushkin was playing through the pain. He blocks shots and plays a heavy game, so the Sabers have watched his workload in games and drills. As a result, his skating returned to how it was at the beginning of the season.

Another excellent performance by Dahlin. He caught two passes in 22:42 of ice time. In 44 games, the 22-year-old has scored 13 goals and 52 points. He’s playing like a Norris Trophy contender in his fifth season in the NHL.

• Solid response through the sword force game in the first period. It was a tough stretch for the first unit. The group was pushing and committing uncharacteristic shifts. There was a four on the turnaround that ended with Skinner’s wrist shot making it 2-0.

• Alex Toch assisted Skinner’s goal and a great shot by Krebs for the Sabers’ third goal in the third period. Touch has 22 goals and 50 points in 45 games.

Cribbs was an interesting player to watch during his second season in Buffalo. The 21-year-old center was scratched eight times at various points as a developmental opportunity to watch from a different perspective.

Since uniting with Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons, Krebs has looked like a different player. He plays a tough, direct game and makes more of an impact at the fore check. His first goal on Saturday came on a upfield scramble and his second was a powerful shot into the hole to put Buffalo up 6-3.

“The nice thing is that he didn’t come into the squad and try to prove something to us as coaches or to Kevin (Adams) as general manager,” Granato said. “He knows we believe in him. And he took a chance when he sat out a couple of games to add something to his game and find ways to add things to the game. I don’t think any of us have ever seen him pick up a tackle the way he scored that second goal, and don’t kick that if you don’t think That you can score from there… Again, that’s just another piece he’s adding to his game.

“And if we can make a guy like that think he can score, his pass is even more dangerous because you have to respect that shot.”

Krebs also chose the right time to accept an invitation to fight. He dropped his gloves and traded punches with the Ducks’ forward, Ryan Strom, causing a whistle that abruptly ended a 2-on-1 rush in favor of Anaheim.

The Sabers hit the road for a four-game trip starting Monday night in Dallas with an 8:30 puck down against the Stars.

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