With so many former NHL players in the American Hockey League, it's easy to forget sometimes that the league is also about young players learning how to perfect their craft and handle the pressure of the next level.
For Matt Hackett, the Buffalo Sabres' organization can only hope that Saturday night's meltdown will translate into a “teaching moment” in the long run.
Hackett was benched for Friday night's win by head coach Chadd Cassidy because of a temper tantrum last Saturday in Syracuse that resulted in three penalties on the goaltender including a game misconduct.
On Saturday at Blue Cross Arena, on the way to a 6-4 win, it happened again.
Near the end of the second period, the Amerks allowed a goal to bring the Utica Comets within one. Seconds later, Hackett punched a Comets player, putting his team immediately back on the PK.
In between periods, Cassidy yanked his young goalie, who now has 18 penalty minutes. The Amerks' coach considered doing it on the spot.
“I wanted to see it first,” Cassidy said. “I didn't want to make a knee-jerk reaction without actually seeing it. I went back and watched the video and it was easy.”
Nathan Leiuwen, who won against Toronto on Friday night, took over in the third and allowed one goal on 11 shots – an impressive performance considering the lack of preperation.
Now the Amerks are left to figure out how to deal with Hackett. The hot-head act is unacceptable.
“There's a lot of work to be done there,” Cassidy said. “We have to come in Monday and be ready to work on it. A lot of it is on the individual, he has to be ready to make some changes.”
Hackett not only went against the orders of his coach from last Saturday night's game, he also let down his teammates by putting them on the PK and forced his teammate Leiuwen into a difficult position.
To make it all worse, he was unavailable to answer for his actions. Hackett jetted out of the locker room, tie in hand, before the media was allowed in. His teammate and first star Mike Zigomanis avoided commenting on the situation.
None of that's going to play in the NHL – that's for sure. Letting down teammates, then leaving them to answer will absolutely not fly.
Maybe he'll take his coach's comments seriously and use it as a teaching moment. That's all the Sabres' brass can hope for.
-Mike Zigomanis broke through, scoring two goals and two assists. It was the type of performance that had Amerks fans excited upon his signing.
-Luke Adam scored again. It was his fifth in five games. He could have had two more. Even more promising for Adam, he was on the ice in the final minutes when the Amerks were grinding away trying to close out the win
-Jerome Gauthier-Leduc had some D-zone struggles, but moved the puck exceptionally well and finished off a beautiful pass by Zigomanis for the game-winning goal. He said after the game that he understands his overall defensive game has to get up to par in order to ever get a chance to play in Buffalo
-Alex Sulzer was tremendous, making a beautiful tap pass to Phil Varone, who got the puck up to Zigomanis on the GWG. He may not be a top four player in the NHL, but Sulzer shows often why he has so much time in The Show.
-Brayden McNabb has struggled at times, but in an arena you might not expect if you've watched Rochester the last two years: To shoot the puck. McNabb passed up on several prime opportunities to unleash his rocket shot.
-Phil Varone is off to a great start. He added two assists and six shots on Saturday night. He's up to seven points in five games