Isak Rosen collected the disc in the right circle in Thursday night’s power play with a chance to disappoint Montreal Canadiens fans who made the trip to Buffalo to see first-team debut Juraj Slafkovsky.
Rosen hesitated, and by the time he hit the ball, Canadian goalkeeper Joe Friptic was in position to make a save. The moment had no bearing on the Buffalo Sabers’ 4-3 victory over Montreal in the opening game of the Horizons Challenge at LECOM Harbourcenter, but it was an important lesson for Rosen as he adjusts to the pressure that comes with playing professional hockey in North America. .
Rosen did not hesitate again. With Sabers clinging to a goal difference with only seconds to organize, the Swedish winger blocked a shot to secure victory.
“What a blocked shot,” Rochester coach Seth Appert said. “This is a hockey win. This is a first-round pick, he’s a skilled player, he’s an attack-minded player who has done a lot of really good things tonight, but he’s going out 15 seconds early and eating a puck to win.” Hockey. I think that’s a great sign of what he represents as a hockey player.”
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The Swedish winger drafted 14th in 2021, and Rosen did not appear frustrated by his mishap in the first period or when Canadian rookie Philippe Messar scored a reduced goal moments later to give Montreal a 2-0 lead. Rosen showed progress with every shift and touch of a pinch, as he did at development camp in July.
On May 31, Isaac Rosen signed a three-year junior contract with Cypress, who picked him in the first round, 14th overall, in the draft last July.
Early in the second period, Rosen carried the disc to the attacking area and later found defender Mats Lindgren open at the blue line. Lindgren, who was in the fourth round in July, fired the puck into the net, with quarterback Tyson Cusack outplaying Fribetek to advance 3-2.
Cusack finished with two goals, culminating in his backhand with 14:13 remaining in the organization. Josh Bassolt and Nolan Burke also scored to help Cypress recover from early disability.
“I told him yesterday, good on him because of how much better he looks now than he did two months ago,” Appert added. “And that’s credit for his work. I told him, you can see he was smiling, you can tell he knows it. He put in a lot of work in just the two months since we saw him.”
Rosen, 19, has had a difficult season after being picked up by the Sabers with the pick picked up in the Rasmus Ristolainen trade. Rosen’s ice time in the Swedish Hockey League was scarce, and when he finally got playing time in the country’s second division, he picked up a season-ending injury after a ball shot broke several bones in his hand.
To control Rosen’s development, Cypress signed him to a three-year entry contract with a plan to be in Rochester this season. He, along with Alexander Kisakov and Jerry Kulich, will lead the revamped Amerx roster that is expected to be without Jack Quinn and JJ Petrka, both of whom will compete for a place on the roster at the Cypress training camp.
“His speed is very impressive,” Appert said. “He’s – I think you saw him at the Junior World Championships – he’s one of the fastest guys, and I think he’s been recorded as the second-fastest player at the top speed in the entire Junior World Championships. He has explosive acceleration. He does that. He’s very easy. So, his skate is special.” He has very good creativity seeing him. But he scores some goals, which is great to see him as a young player.”
The development camp was a challenge for Rosen at first. He hasn’t played a game since February. Giving him more time to practice off the ice, but there’s no way to emulate the demanding and competitive practices in front of Sabers coaches and management. In the end, though, Rosen showed why he’s one of the most talented potential clients in the burgeoning pipeline.
Then, at the IIHF World Junior Championships last month, Rosen was the highlight of Sweden’s run to a bronze medal. He tied his four goals to lead the team and finished with five points in seven matches.
“Of course, when I came to the World Junior Championships, I hadn’t played for four months or so,” Rosen said. “I was excited to play again, play with confidence, play a good first game and then build on that. I’m just trying to build on that.”
Rosen played winger on the Prospects Challenge and took the spin-off after spending some time at the center last season. It’s not clear where he will qualify for long or how long he will have at Sabers training camp, but Thursday night’s match was another reminder that he has the talent to make an impact at Rochester.
Here are other notes from the game:
Matt Savoy didn’t have an easy match in his Sabers debut. Drafted ninth overall by Buffalo in July, Savoy was usually on the ice against Slavkowski’s streak and Montreal’s top defense pair, including NHLer Justin Barron. Savoy also took turns in penalty kicks and power play. And despite not having any chances to score, he made some great passes and did a good defensive job.
Savoy converted two bouts in the third inning, switching between center and wing.
Matt Savoy needed just one pass during his first practice in a Buffalo Sabers jersey to impress Rochester coach Seth Appert and remind spectators, including management, why he was named ninth overall in the NHL Draft in July.
“Savoy’s right work is very high,” said Appert. “He made pucks and made a lot of plays tonight that could have ended with the net and he didn’t, but Savoy on a night that isn’t all over the scoreboard still helps you win hockey games because he does all the other things.”
Kozak is one of many development success stories for Sabers since Kevyn Adams took over as Managing Director. Selected in the seventh round in 2021, Kozak had a break season with Portland of the Western Hockey League and did well in the development camp for a junior contract. His work around the network helps him stand out in a pipeline that includes several promising centers. Cusack, 19, nearly completed a hat-trick in the third game. Within a year, Cusack had established himself as a legitimate prospect in the NHL.
“For me, I think before I got recruited I was more of a defensive-minded quarterback, so I developed my offensive skills over the summer, and now it’s starting to pay off,” Cusack said.
Linus Weisbach must have caught management’s attention with his performance on Thursday night. Weisbach, the 23-year-old winger, set up Sibers’ first goal, a redirection by Bassolt, with a pass towards the far post and always seems to do the smart pass when there doesn’t seem to be room to play. In the seventh round in 2017, Weisbach had an impressive junior season in Rochester with 37 points in 67 games.
“I think the focus this year for me this week is to show that I’m no longer potential, that I’m more ready to play and contribute at the highest level,” Weisbach said.
Savoy put Weisbach and Kissakov into center stage; Rosen and Lukas Rusk played with Cusack; Philip Cederqvist was on the left wing alongside Cohen Oleshevsky and Josh Blum. And the fourth line was Bassolt, Burke, and Atley Calvert. Buffalo had three defense draft picks: Lindgren, Oskar Laksonen and Vsevolod Komarov.
The Sabers plan to have their two guards, Warm and Tomas Suchanek, split the act this week. Worm, who has signed a contract with Rochester in the American Hockey League, made a start on Thursday and made a superb shot right to deny Misar less than four minutes into the first half. Sochanek was also exceptional in the latter half of the match to maintain the lead.
Jerry Kulich, 28th overall by the Sabers in July, will not take part in the Horizons Challenge due to a lower body injury that was discovered upon his arrival in Buffalo. Colisch, 18, is “day after day,” according to Rochester coach Seth Appert, and Sibers takes extra care to ensure his health during training camp.
Strikers Matej-Picard and Olivier Naidoo, both recovering from shoulder surgery, will not be on the ice at the show. Additionally, Bloom exited the match with an injury and never came back.
Cusack scored 34 goals and 40 assists in the regular season and 10 playoffs with WHL’s Portland Winterhawk.
The Horizons Challenge continues on Friday with Boston vs. Ottawa and New Jersey vs. Montreal at 3:30pm and 7pm respectively. Cypress trains at Lycome Harborcenter at 11:30 a.m., in preparation for Saturday’s game against New Jersey at 7 p.m.