Whitehorse’s Dylan Cozens, pictured here at the NHL draft in June, made his preseason debut with the Buffalo Sabres on Sept. 16 in University Park, Penn., against the Pittsburgh Penguins. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)

Dylan Cozens makes NHL preseason debut as the Buffalo Sabres beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4

“He’s got some exciting years ahead of him”

Whitehorse’s Dylan Cozens made his NHL preseason debut on Sept. 16 when the Buffalo Sabres took on the Pittsburgh Penguins in University Park, Penn., for the first of six Sabres preseason games.

The Penguins opened the scoring early in the first with a goal from Andrew Agozzino.

Buffalo responded in kind with goals from John Gilmour and Conor Sheary to make the score 2-1 after the first period.

The Sabres outshot the Penguins 18-2 in the opening period, and the strong play carried over into the second with two more Buffalo goals from Henri Jokiharju and Tage Thompson.

In the third period, the Penguins scored three straight in the first nine minutes to even the score up at 4-4. Goals for Pittsburgh came from Sam Lafferty, Adam Johnson and Ryan Haggerty.

In overtime, Sabres captain Jack Eichel scored the winner to give the club a 5-4 win.

Cozens, who largely played on a line with Remi Elie and Thompson, finished the game with two shots on goal and an even plus/minus rating.

After the game, Cozens said he was happy with his first outing against NHL competition.

“Obviously it’s very fast and guys are so strong,” said Cozens. “It’s just getting used to the quickness of it — the little time and space that you have — and I think I’m going to adjust and I’m going to adjust quickly. But it was a lot of fun.”

Head coach Ralph Krueger said Cozens’ poise impressed.

“I think emotionally there are so many things for him to step into this space for the first time and he managed it really well,” said Krueger. “He was very calm on the bench. He’s an energetic kid trying to learn every shift and it was an exciting coaching opportunity for me to stand behind somebody with that much skill in their first game at this level and he’s got some exciting years ahead of him.”

Thompson said Cozens’ ability shone through during the game.

“He’s got a lot of confidence and I think you see it with his play out there,” said Thompson about his linemate. “He’s really fast and dynamic with the puck and I don’t think there are too many nerves with him right now.”

The Sabres were back on the ice on Sept. 17 for another preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, losing 4-1. Cozens did not play against Columbus.

Buffalo’s next preseason games are Sept. 20 and 21 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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