LUUKKONEN TO START TONIGHT FOR SABRES IN PROSPECTS CHALLENGE OPENERSep 17, 2021
By Suzie Cool
Rochester Americans goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is set to take on his second Buffalo Sabres Prospect Challenge this weekend at LECOM Harborcenter. After the strides Luukkonen made last season, he may just be kicking off a year that could take him to that next level.
He’ll get the start in tonight’s opener against the New Jersey Devils.
In 2020-21, Luukkonen made four appearances with the Sabres and posted a 1-3-0 record while also showing a 7-5-2 record with the Amerks. Prior to heading to North America, Luukkonen began the season on loan with TPS Turku (SM-liiga), going 6-3-4 with a 2.52 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage in 14 games.
“It was really good experience for me. To get the starts, learn what it takes to play in the league. You have to be really fast, be in control of your body.”— Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) September 17, 2021
— Ukko-Pekka Luukonen on his four starts with the Sabres pic.twitter.com/RpygRe8xVC
“It’s important for ‘Uppie’ to just get off on the right foot. He had a positive year in so many ways last year, but the COVID pause probably stumbled him a little bit in the American League and then he was playing great in Buffalo and then the injury stumbled him a little bit there,” stated Amerks head coach Seth Appert, who will be leading Buffalo’s prospects this weekend behind the bench, when asked how important Prospect Challenge was in terms of Luukkonen’s start to a good 2021-22 campaign.
After opening the Amerks season with three straight wins from Feb. 10 to Feb. 18, Luukkonen earned his first-ever NHL recall from the Sabres on March 23. Luukkonen went on to make his NHL debut on April 23 against the Boston Bruins where he recorded 36 saves to pick up his first NHL win, becoming the first Sabres netminder to win his first career start since Mika Noronen on Oct. 5, 2020.
This weekend’s round-robin tournament has the Sabres taking on the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins prospects. It’s a short couple of days that are filled with fast-paced practices and high intensity games with everyone, including Luukkonen, trying to prove how much they’ve upped their game over the offseason.
UPL gets the start in the first Prospects Challenge game tonight 👏 pic.twitter.com/ecyxxQhzlA— Rochester Americans (@AmerksHockey) September 17, 2021
“It’s a good chance for us guys to get a little bit of a head start for the season. Usually it’s high-paced games, high-paced practices so you want to take the most out of that and be ready for when the camp starts.”
The Sabres prospects are set to take on the Devils at 7 p.m. on Friday night at the LECOM Harborcenter, followed by an afternoon game at 3 p.m. on Saturday against the Bruins to finish up their round-robin action. Both games are open to the public with tickets going for $10 as well as being streamed on Sabres.com.