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Elmira Jackals sign on as Sabres affiliate

jackalsFans in south central part of New York State have endured their own version of “suffering”, as their Elmira Jackals of the East Coast Hockey League have fallen to the bottom of their league standings this year, just two years removed from being at the top of the ECHL under their then Craig Rivet led squad.

Today the Buffalo Sabres announced that they have signed an affiliation agreement with Elmira as their lower level minor league affiliate. The Jackals, who began play in 2000 in the United Hockey League before moving to the ECHL, play at the 4000 seat First Arena in downtown Elmira. The venue is located approximately 140 miles from Buffalo, and with this move, all Sabres prospects will be housed within easy driving distance.

In a press release issued by the Sabres, team General Manager Tim Murray stated, “Proper development is essential in maintaining a competitive roster at the NHL level. Having Elmira as an additional source to develop our young talent will certainly help our entire organization going forward. We’re proud to have the Jackals as part of our organization and, with the Amerks in Rochester, we now have the added bonus of working with minor-league affiliates that are no further than 150 miles from Buffalo.”

For the Sabres, additional marketing synergies can certainly be found in Elmira, where they passionately embrace the sport of hockey, not only via the Jackals, but also the NCAA Division III Elmira College Soaring Eagles hockey program. The Jackals have changed ownership just recently, and Buffalo is the closest NHL team geographically to the “Twin Tiers” area of Corning and Elmira. On any given night at a Jackals game, abundant Sabres jerseys can be easily spotted, sprinkled throughout the stands at First Arena.

The East Coast Hockey League is the premier “AA” minor league of hockey with many affiliation agreements with parent NHL teams. With the Sabres presence in both Rochester and now Elmira, this news bodes well for the organization and their fans throughout upstate New York.

Hockey playoffs? You’ll find them in Elmira

On the same day that the Buffalo Sabres players were cleaning out their lockers and saying their farewells, a different kind of drama was unfolding just 140 miles away from the First Niagara Center, down in the hockey hotbed of Elmira, New York.

The East Coast Hockey League’s Elmira Jackals are their league’s Eastern Conference regular season champions, and have already started their playoff rounds, 15 teams competing in multi round action to the Kelly Cup finals and the champions of the “AA” tier of professional hockey.

And so it went for Elmira, the number 1 seed, facing the 8 seeded Reading Royals in a best of 5 showdown. Reading took the first two games at their home, meaning the Jackals would have to be perfect at home and win three to advance to the second round.

On Monday night, they did just that at First Arena in downtown Elmira, dispatching the Royals 4-2 to win their best of 5 series, three games to two, setting up a raucous celebration by over 2000 Elmira fans who hadn’t seen a playoff series win in the team’s last three tries.

The Jackals took a 1-0 lead into the 3rd period, only to see Reading tie the score twice, knotting it at 2-2 with just over 6 minutes to play. But Elmira’s Corey Cowick took an end to end rush up the center of the ice and scored with 3:19 left. He added an empty netter to seal the deal.

Elmira has been aided in their quest for championship by the presence of NHL standout and former Sabre Craig Rivet, who saw plenty of ice time on the power play, penalty kill and helped captain the desperate final minute and a half when the Reading net was emptied for the extra attacker. “There’s no quit in these guys,” said the head coach Pat Bingham. “We could have folded at that moment.” Rivet added, “It’s a great series win, but there’s work to be done.”

The Jackals move on to play the 5th seeded Florida Everblades in the second round. Home dates are listed below. Need a hockey fix? Hockey Heaven, Elmira style, is a 2 1/2 hour ride away.

Friday, Apr. 13, 7:05 p.m. – Elmira vs. Florida, First Arena, Game 1
Saturday, Apr. 14, 7:05 p.m. – Elmira vs. Florida, First Arena, Game 2
Monday, Apr. 16, 7:30 p.m. – Elmira at Florida, Germain Arena, Game 3
Wednesday, Apr. 18, 7:30 p.m. – Elmira at Florida, Germain Arena, Game 4
Friday, Apr. 20, 7:30 p.m. – Elmira at Florida, Germain Arena, Game 5 (if necessary)
Monday, Apr. 23, 7:05 p.m. – Elmira vs. Florida, First Arena, Game 6 (if necessary)
Wednesday, Apr. 25, 7:05 p.m. – Elmira vs. Florida, First Arena, Game 7 (if necessary)