Junior Treyton Welch
Sophomore Devin Huebner
Sophomore Tyler Braccini
Frustration trickled throughout Buffalo's locker room following a 4-3 loss to Breck on Tuesday, Dec. 26 in the opening round of the Schwan Cup Silver holiday boys' hockey tournament in Blaine.
Buffalo outplayed, outchanced, outhit, outskated, and outshot the Mustangs. But in the end, it was the No. 7 ranked team in Class A outscoring the Bison by one – a game Breck never trailed in, despite the other factors.
"We had a chance to win a game today and didn't do it," said Bison Head Coach Aaron Johnson. "That's the most disappointing thing."
Breck has been a nemesis the past few years at the Schwan Cup for the Bison. Last year Buffalo went 2-1, losing 2-0 in round two to the Mustangs. The prior year was a 7-1 loss in the opening round.
Sophomore Jake Braccini points to twin brother Tyler following Buffalo's second goal. A pretty 2-on-1 play.
The high-end talent that once was on those previous Breck squads is no longer there. The Mustangs came into the tournament with a 2-4 record. But the top line of Will Torgerson, Justin Paschke, and Beau Courneya accounted for all four of Breck's goals and goaltender Linden Olness played just well enough to get the win.
"They're a little different team than the ones they've had in the past, but they still are very good," Johnson said. "This is the closest we've played them."
A turnover in their own zone led to the only goal of the first period scored by Breck's Michael Kenney. The Mustangs extended their lead just 34 seconds into period two on a pretty passing play that started with Courneya finding Paschke, who found Torgerson who fired a shot past Bison goalie Nathan Mueller.
Buffalo responded with a pair of goals over a span of 2:25 by sophomore Jake Braccini. The first coming off an errant Breck turnover that Braccini fired a wrist shot past OIness on the short side. The second was started on a pass from senior Ben Lindvall that sprung a 2-on-1 break that ended with Braccini finishing a back door tap-in setup by sophomore Tyler Braccini.
The Bison outshot Breck 13-10 in period two and 20-17 through 34 minutes.
After scoring 34 seconds into period two, Torgerson's second goal of the contest came just nine seconds into period three, when his shot from the left faceoff dot appeared to surprise Mueller.
"Nathan's been such a consistent goalie, so it kind of shocks you when he lets a fluke goal," said Bison junior defenseman Joe McNamara. "He's such a good goalie that it puts a weird picture in your head when it does happen."
The early goal put Buffalo on its heels, and shortly after, Brendan Conroy made it 4-2 at 6:50 of period three on another shot that Mueller normally would stop.
"The two in the third period are ones that normally don't go in, but it still shouldn't have come down to those two plays," Johnson said.
The Bison found life after sophomore Devin Huebner fired a shot from the slot past Olness making it 4-3 with 6:54 remaining in regulation.
Jake Braccini nearly tied it a minute later when he skated down the right wing and fired a wrist shot that clanked off the far post.
Buffalo had a power-play opportunity with 3:29 left, but failed to register a shot on goal during the man advantage. Mueller was pulled for an extra attacker with 1:24 left, but again the Bison failed to get a shot.
"I feel like we outplayed them the whole game, but it's one of those games where they got a couple lucky bounces," said McNamara, who assisted on Buffalo's third goal. "You just have to go home, move on with it, and get ready for the next game."
Buffalo outshot Breck 28-21 for the contest.
Both top lines accounted for three of their team's goals. Braccini had two goals, Heubner a goal, and Tyler Braccini an assist. Buffalo's second and third lines struggled to possess, and twice coughed up pucks leading to Breck goals.
"Our top line was gelling well against Breck's systems," McNamara said. "They just kept working hard, getting to loose pucks, battling, and doing the things we're supposed to do. We need the whole team to look at that first line as an example and build their game off their performance and we'll be successful."
The loss sent Buffalo to the loser's bracket where they played St. Louis Park on Wednesday, Dec. 27 at noon. Results of this game and Thursday's finals were unavailable due to Journal-Press deadlines (see next week for full recap).
"We felt coming in that the Silver Division was pretty open," Johnson said. "I think on paper, Cretin-Derham Hall was a team everyone was kind of looking at. I thought we would be playing them in round two, and it's disappointing we're not. We have to find a way to win hockey games – we didn't do that. It's really disappointing."
Sophomore Jake Braccini
Schwan Cup (Silver)
Breck 4, Buffalo 3
(Tuesday, Dec. 26 at Blaine)
Bison0 2 1 - 3
Mustangs1 1 2 - 4
First period: BR -- Michael Kenney (Nick Strom) 13:57.
Second period: BR -- Will Torgerson (Justin Paschke, Beau Courneya) 0:34; B -- Jake Braccini (unassisted) 4:15; B -- J. Braccini 2 (Tyler Braccini, Ben Lindvall) 6:40.
Third period: BR -- Torgerson 2 (Strom) 0:09; B -- Brendan Conroy (Torgerson, Strom) 6:50; B -- Devin Huebner (Joe McNamara) 10:06.
Goalies: B – Nathan Mueller (loss) 21 shots, 17 saves; BR – Linden Olness (win) 28 shots, 24 saves. Shots: B – 7-13-8 – 28; BR – 7-10-4 – 21. Power Plays: B – 0-1; BR – 0-1.