Photo: Micheline Michaelina - Rochester Americans

Three Sabres prospects to play in NCAA tournament

Petersen, Malone, and Florentino will all compete for an NCAA championship

Brayton Wilson
March 19, 2017 - 14:03 pm
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@BJWilsonWGR

The brackets have been released for the 2017 NCAA Division I Ice Hockey Tournament, and three Buffalo Sabres prospects will compete for a chance at a college hockey championship.

Forward Sean Malone (Harvard), defenseman Anthony Florentino (Providence) and goalie Cal Petersen (Notre Dame) will take part in the tournament which begins on Friday.

Malone and Harvard will kick things off on Friday when they face Florentino and Providence in the first game in the East Region held in Providence, Rhode Island. The other game in the East Region on Friday will feature Air Force against Western Michigan.

Harvard is the third ranked team in the nation, and is the top-ranked team in the East Region. The Crimson are one of four top-seeded teams in the tournament along with Denver in the Midwest Region, Minnesota in the Northeast Region, and Minnesota-Duluth in the West Region.

RECAP:

1.) Denver vs. Michigan Tech
Penn State vs. Union

4.) Minnesota vs. Notre Dame
Cornell vs. UMass-Lowell#Sabres

— Brayton J. Wilson (@BJWilsonWGR) March 19, 2017

3.) Harvard vs. Providence
Air Force vs. Western Michigan

2.) Minnesota-Duluth vs. Ohio State
North Dakota vs. Boston University#Sabres

— Brayton J. Wilson (@BJWilsonWGR) March 19, 2017

Malone, 21, is in his senior season at Harvard after being selected by the Sabres in the sixth round (159th) of the 2013 NHL Draft. The West Seneca native just put up a career year with Harvard with 18 goals and 42 points in 33 games played. In his four years with the Crimson, Malone has scored 42 goals and is one point away from reaching 100 career points. Once Malone's season ends, he is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer if the Sabres do not sign him to an entry-level contract.

Florentino is also in his senior season at Providence after being selected in the fifth round (143rd overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft. Florentino also had the best season of his college career in 2016-17 with nine goals and seven assists in 29 games played. Florentino has racked up 54 points in 130 collegiate games, as won a national championship back in 2015 in his sophomore year.

Like Malone, Florentino will become an unrestricted free agent this summer unless the Sabres give him an entry-level contract.

Perhaps the most notable name playing in this tournament is Sabres' prospect Cal Petersen with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Notre Dame will face top-ranked Minnesota in the first round of the tournament playing in the Northeast Region on Saturday. The other matchup in that region will have Cornell facing UMass-Lowell earlier in the day.

Petersen, 22, is currently playing in his junior season with Notre Dame and has been a work horse in goal for the Irish. In his three seasons thus far, Petersen has played in 107 games with the Irish, including 87 consecutive starts in goal. Petersen has an overall 44-38-15 record while posting a career 2.28 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.

In 2016-17, Petersen put up career totals in wins (21), goals-against average (2.14) and save percentage (.928) as he helped Notre Dame to a 21-11-5 overall record and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Petersen was named a team captain to start the season, and has since been honored as a First-Team Hockey East All-Star, and is one of 10 finalists for the 2017 Mike Richter Award as college hockey's most outstanding goaltender of the season.

Team captain ✅

Mike Richter Award finalist ✅

First Team Hockey East All-Star ✅ pic.twitter.com/IFRL7p6j5n

— Notre Dame Hockey (@NDHockey) March 17, 2017

If Petersen decides to leave school after his season has completed, the Sabres will have until midnight on August 16 to get him signed to an entry-level contract. If Petersen does not sign a contract with Buffalo beforehand, he will be free to enter the unrestricted free agent market.

The Sabres also have prospect Connor Hurley playing with Notre Dame, but he will miss the remainder of the season with an injury. Hurley, 21, is currently in his junior year at the Irish with four goals and 16 points in 21 games played this year.

Finally, the Sabres have 2016 fourth round pick (99th overall) Brett Murray as part of Penn State University's hockey team, but he has sat out the last five games as a healthy scratch. Murray has just one assist in 12 games this season with the Nitany Lions after joining the squad in January from the USHL's Youngstown Phantoms. Penn State will open up their first ever NCAA Tournament against Union in the East Region.

The Frozen Four part of the tournament will be held this year in Chicago beginning on April 6, with an eventual champion being crowned on April 8.