Three Sabres prospects medal at World Juniors
by Mike Repertorio/Correspondent
Three for four isn’t bad any way you spin it.
The Sabres sent four players to Ufa, Russia to represent their respective countries in the 2013 World Junior Championships. Three of them are coming back with medals.
Defenseman Jake McCabe, the U.S. captain, helped lead his team to a gold medal finish. It’s the Americans’ second first-place finish in the tournament in four years. McCabe (picked 44th overall by Buffalo in 2012) was named the top defenseman for the tournament and made the media-selected All-Star team.
After a scare that they wouldn’t make it to medal contention, the talented U.S. squad turned up the heat in the quarter and semifinal rounds. Then, they would take it to Sweden in the gold medal game, winning it 3-1.
And while McCabe was held scoreless in that game, he still finished plus-2 in the contest to cap off an outstanding tournament performance. In seven games, McCabe scored three goals and added three assists for six points, but what really stands out was his superb plus-9 mark for the tournament.
The Sabres’ Russian duo of Mikhail Grigorenko and Andrei Makarov also medaled. Both were crucial cogs in Russia’s run that earned them a bronze medal after beating the Canadians. Makarov started three of the team’s games, including the bronze medal game that saw him make 40 save in the 6-5, overtime win. Overall, Makarov was 2-1 and finished with a 2.99 goals against average and a .932 save percentage.
Grigorenko also grabbed his fair share of headlines in the tournament. In the quarterfinal game against Switzerland, “Grigo” had arguably his best performance. With a goal and assist in regulation, he also scored the shootout winner to keep his team alive. In seven games, Grigorenko scored two goals and added four assists for six points.
Arguably though, the greatest performance came from a player whose team found itself out of the medal round: Finland’s Joel Armia.
While they were clearly the best team in the relegation round (winning 8-0 and 11-4), it can be said that Armia was one of the best players in the entire tournament. Second in the tournament in goals scored with six (one behind USA forward and New Jersey native Johnny Gaudreau), Armia was also tied with teammate Marcus Granlund for second in tournament scoring. With six goals and six assists for 12 points (six games), Armia was just three points behind Canadian star and NHLer Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.