Niagara Gazette —
For the first time in their history as a member of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, the Buffalo Junior Sabres are defending a title.
Two of them, in fact.
The 2012-13 edition of the Jr. Sabres were the regular season champions of the OJHL’s West Division and South-West Conference.
However, you can sense it from the man running the team — that’s good, but not satisfying.
“I’d feel better if we were conference champions based on our playoff performance, not just the regular season,” said Jr. Sabres head coach and general manager Michael Peca. “I think we did get a lot of respect from our peers in the league. I think our program is well respected and you’re a target.
“Any time you finish first place in your division or your conference, teams hold you as the benchmark for the following year. We’re going to be up against it every time we play somebody. We’re going to get their best effort and we’d expect nothing less. If we want to continue to be atop the standings, we’ve got to withstand that stuff.”
The Jr. Sabres open their 2013-14 regular season this afternoon in North York, Ontario against the team that eliminated them from the postseason last spring, the North York Rangers.
The Jr. Sabres set a rather high standard for other clubs to follow in 2012-13. They were nationally ranked — in Canada, where they compete among other Junior A level hockey teams that develop players ages 16 to 20 years old for consideration by college hockey programs. The Canadian Junior Hockey League ranked the Jr. Sabres as high as No. 7 nationwide last season.
They had a 50-plus goal scorer, Tyler Gjurich, who was later honored as the league’s MVP. Their starting goaltender, Parker Gahagen, posted seven shutouts.