By Ryan J. Harr
Following the second game of a back-to-back set with the St. John’s IceCaps earlier this month in Newfoundland, Rochester Americans head coach Dan Lambert had told three of the Amerks defensemen that one or two of them could be potentially recalled to Buffalo Sabres. Once the team landed in Toronto Sunday, Lambert informed Brady Austin and Casey Nelson they were not going to stay in Toronto with the team but rather would be going to join the Sabres in Detroit.
Later that night around 10:00 p.m., the defensive duo arrived at the hotel, but for Austin it was just the beginning of his night as he tried to get some sleep prior to his first NHL game. Austin shared a room with second-year forward Sam Reinhart but the 6-foot-4, 234-pound defenseman cautioned Reinhart he snores and sometimes it can be loud.
“Around three in the morning, I woke up and saw Reinhart moving stuff into the bath tub to get away from my snoring,” said Austin. “I felt terrible because I did not want to keep him from getting a good night sleep, so on top of my excitement of playing my first game, I did not get much sleep after that.”
Prior to and then following the game against the Red Wings, Austin was able to spend some time with his mom and brothers, who made the near six-hour commute from his hometown of Bobcaygeon, Ontario.
“Making my debut was definitely a dream come true and very special not only for me but my family,” said Austin, who logged 15:37 of ice time in Buffalo’s 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on March 20. “To play my first NHL game in Joe Louis Arena in one of the last games at that place, it was awesome. Having my family here…it was pretty emotional, but overall it was pretty cool.”
After 199 career games over the course of the last three seasons with the Amerks, Austin made quite the splash in his first shift in the NHL by hitting Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader.
“The game really started out like I had hoped,” said Austin. “After I got that hit early on, it helped me settle in for the rest of the game. I felt pretty comfortable out on the ice.”
Austin, 23, the Sabres’ seventh-round selection (193rd overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft became the 14th different Amerk this season to earn a call-up and the 94th AHL player this season to make their NHL debuts.
“It was pretty neat to be honest,” Austin said. “When we got off the bus before the game at the Joe, myself and five other guys who spent time with the Amerks this season led the team off the bus. It really says a lot of the development process that the coaches have as they have helped us and prepared us for our game at the next level.”
Through five games into his NHL career, Austin is making a case to stay as he has averaged exactly 16 minutes of ice time per game, including a season-high 19 minutes of action against Pittsburgh on March 21. He also has eight shots on goal, three of which came in his memorable debut.
“Now that the first few are behind me I want to do everything I can to work my way back up there,” said Austin.
And that he has. After returning to the Amerks to appear in his 200th AHL game against Springfield on March 24, Austin earned his second recall in a week the next day, helping Buffalo win two of its last three games.
“I think I speak from experience,” said Lambert. “When making that debut in the NHL, it is an experience that you will remember forever and I think Brady will cherish it as well. Brady has waited a long time for his opportunity and he earned it.”