From comments made by Buffalo Sabres’ interim head coach Ted Nolan, it doesn’t sound like Mark Pysyk will be in Rochester for very long. The 21-year-old defenseman made it quite clear on Wednesday night he belongs back in Buffalo.
Pysyk played near 30 minutes in the Amerks’ 2-1 shootout win over the Toronto Marlies. He and prospect D-man Brayden McNabb dominated their own end and helped create multiple opportunities on the offensive side.
On the scoresheet, the pair finished a combined plus-2 with six shots on goal. They played a large role in the Amerks holding the Marlies to only 20 shots, including nine in the first two periods.
“They’re just so calm,” head coach Chadd Cassidy said of the Pysyk-McNabb pair. “They make everybody feel a sense of comfort. When they go back to get the puck, they just seem to know where each other are.”
Both players were sent down to Rochester earlier this week. Cassidy said he got exactly what he expected from them: A solid effort.
“Every time they’ve come back here, they’ve had reason to be pissed off – and I hope they are to some extent - but they come with the right attitudes and want to make our team successful here,” Cassidy said.
Pysyk and McNabb weren’t the only young players who played a strong game on Wednesday. Cassidy called forward Johan Larsson the best forward on the ice. Larsson was not credited with a shot, but he rung the post once and had several other opportunities. He also won battles along the boards and controlled the puck when he was on the ice.
“He’s very cerebral,” Cassidy said. “He knows where everybody’s going to be on the ice, which is his gift. But tonight I thought he had a lot more jump and got separation easily.”
Twenty-year-old forward Dan Catenacci, who helped control the game with a strong forecheck, scored the game-winning goal in the shootout.
Catenacci, who had three shots on goal, has been adjusting from playing center in juniors to wing at the professional level. He has four points in 28 games so far.
“I’ve been a natural centerman my whole life,” the Amerks’ forward said. “Sometimes there’s a tough transition when it comes to putting up points on the wing. I think I’m getting better at it every game.”
Luke Adam struggled with confidence the last time he was sent down to Rochester. He didn’t struggle with anything on Wednesday night. Adam created a host of scoring chances and registered an assist on Mike Zigomanis’ game-tying goal.
Like Pysyk, it might not be long before he finds himself back in Buffalo if he plays like he did against Toronto.
Matt Hackett didn’t face many chances, but stopped 19 of 20 shots and came up with the win in the shootout by only allowing one goal. After the game, Hackett said he’s been studying Ryan Miller in attempts to improve at the shootout. He’s won his last two.