Back to the Future 4: Galbraith leads Leafs to the trifecta

By Stephen J. Holodinsky
It was a wild one alright, but when the dust finally cleared after an empty net goal credited to Jon Zion but actually scored by Vaclav Zavoral the Buds triumphed over the Baby Sabres 7-4 and became the only team to go undefeated, winning the Kitchener Rookie Tournament. The game had all the makings of a record setting rout in the early going as the Leafs’ goals came fast and furious. It all started with Alexei Ponikarovsky doing what he has become noted for here as he went into a corner draped all over a Buffalo player and came out of it with a perfect feed to Ben Ondrus who banged it home with 14:34 left in the first.

The floodgates really opened however some 6 minutes later when the Buds scored 4 times in approximately 6 minutes. A great looking rush/weave by Miguel Delisle going from wing to wing across the blueline started things off. After an exchange with JP Cote, the winger delivered a great goalmouth feed to Luca Cereda. The pivot, for his part, waited patiently for the Buffalo puckstopper to commit leaving Cereda the top half of the net and he took advantage at 11:50. Only two minutes later Kris Vernarsky played puck on a string doing a complete wraparound and starting on a second before sending a pass out to Vadim Sozinov who buried it low glove side. With 4:45 left it was time once again for the Ponikarovsky and Ondrus show. The former fired a pass beyond the reach of the Swift Current Bronco, but the rookie camp invitee out raced two defenders for the puck and backhanded it out front where Ponikarovsky, trailing the play, roofed it.

Lance Galbraith then took center stage as, with 1:47 left, he took a feed from Cereda just outside the Leaf blueline and rushed down the ice crossing over to the other side where he tapped a pass to Delisle. A drop pass later and Galbraith wired a hot one through the five hole to make it 5-0 at the period’s end.

Piece of cake right? Not so fast. Bret Decacco got the Sabres on the board early in the second and it was only 4 minutes later before he was at it again, setting up Brad Self for their second marker. On a roll now, the boys from Buffalo dominated play and at 8:14 were rewarded for their efforts. Thanks to some sloppy neutral zone coverage a turnover sprung the visitors on a 4 on 2. While Vaclav Zavoral tried to prevent the puck carrier Mike Zigomanis from getting off a shot or pass, it left his defense partner Peter Reynolds starring down the barrel of a 3 on 1. When the puck did squirt into the slot it had it’s choice of targets and Vasily Bizyayev was the lucky recipient.

All of a sudden it’s 5-3 and time to make a change in goal. Out goes J-F Racine in comes Game 1 winner Sebastien Centomo. It would get worse before it got better. A late Buffalo powerplay due to a Lubos Velebny interference call allowed Karel Mosovsky to undress the Leafs’ penalty killers and get into the slot where his snapshot overpowered the fresh netminder.

The Buds held together though and at 16:30 it was, you guessed it, Lance Galbraith who stepped up. Picking up a short clear by Reynolds on his off wing, he undressed a Sabres defender at the blueline and came in all alone on Buffalo netminder Ghyslain Rousseau. Having seen the boomer that Galbraith blew by him on his first goal, he was easy pickings when the sniper went forehand to backhand and tucked it between his legs. That was all she wrote until Zavoral’s empty netter with just over as minute to play. While the chippiness definitely picked up after Galbraith’s second tally, thankfully it didn’t get out of control.

Three Stars

Lance Galbraith – Game winner and the insurance goal, leading sniper in the tourney with 4 markers. This game should get him a contract and a training camp invite where he could battle Adam Mair for a roster spot.

Alexei Ponikarovsky – Not only was he his usual beastly self, his offense started coming around. Reminiscent of a smoother skating Antropov, but without the full offensive repertoire yet.

Luca Cereda – Just keeps getting better and better each game, a goal and an assist are only the starting point, good low cycling, smart positionally. Brian Kilrea is going to love this guy.

Others who impressed

Miguel Delisle – The unsung hero on the top line, Delisle turned playmaker and showed why this trio, if it stays intact, is going to be dangerous. He’ll be able to take over the playmaking chores anytime a team focuses too much on his pivot.

Vaclav Zavoral – Usual belligerent self, Zavoral actually showed some smarts and some initiative when it came to the offensive side of the game.

Brad Ondrus – Ondrus is looking more and more like the player he patterns himself after, Darcy Tucker.

Coming soon: Back to the future 5 – The Final Grades.