BUFFALO – History was made during the off day of the 2011 World U20 Championship at HSBC Arena. For the first time, an NHL game was played during an IIHF event, and equally unique were the markings at centre ice which featured the IIHF tournament logo for the U20 during an NHL game.
And the 18,690 fans who filled the arena were treated to a wild and wide-open game, the home side winning 7-6 in a holiday shootout. Boston had a 1-0 lead, then a 3-1 lead, and then the Sabres went ahead 5-4. The Bruins went ahead 6-5, and then Drew Stafford tied the game for Buffalo at 19:32 with his third goal of the game and goalie Ryan Miller on the bench for the extra attacker.
Equally incredible, five of the six players during the shootout scored, Tyler Ennis being the difference after Zdeno Chara missed with the last shot of the game for Boston.
As a bonus, the game started with ceremonies to induct former player Alexander Mogilny and longtime journalist Jim Kelley into the Sabres Hall of Fame.
The Sabres made a classy gesture by inviting the junior players here for the IIHF event as well as IIHF executives and delegates. During one commercial timeout the jumbo screen showed members of Team USA who got an appreciative round of applause. The IIHF has been working for some time with the Sabres to ensure the U20 would be successful, and the partnership has been mutually beneficial.
On ice, it was a strange situation, indeed. The Sabres loaned HSBC Arena to the IIHF for the event and the IIHF in turn accommodated the Sabres for their NHL game. There was a unique tradeoff in that the centre-ice logos stayed during the NHL game and the trapezoidal markings behind the goal (used in the NHL and not in international competition) were also kept.
Things return to "IIHF normal" tomorrow with the two quarterfinals games and then return to "Sabres normal" on January 6 after the medal games for the U20.