Home ice could be big boost for Sabres

For the Fort Frances Jr. Sabres, home is where the heart is.
Despite losing their last three games on home ice, the Sabres still sport a rock-solid 13-7-3 record at the Ice for Kids Arena so far this season.
And it will need to be their saving grace over the final of the month of the regular season given 10 of their final 12 games are here in town.
Continuing to establish the Ice for Kids Arena as a tough place to play will go a long way towards a successful playoff run, and it could give the team a much-needed shot of confidence if they can string together a winning streak on home ice.
The announced attendance for Saturday night’s game against the Thunder Bay Bearcats was 540 (though it looked like more), which bumped up the Sabres’ season average to 436 paying customers a game—well above the next best Dryden Ice Dogs, who average just 303 a game. The Sabres have drawn 7,417 fans through the doors in 17 home dates so far.
The match-up with the Bearcats obviously had some added importance because of the local players involved, but seeing a big crowd that actually reacted to penalties called—and did some cheering and jeering—seemed to give the Sabres a lift they haven’t had since the Christmas break as they’ve zigged and zagged to a 5-6-1 record.
And despite the result on the scoreboard (a 3-1 win for the visitors), the competitiveness displayed by the Sabres proved they aren’t going to bow down to the highly-touted Bearcats that have vastly improved since acquiring local products Tyler Miller, Brian White, and Jeremy Beller, along with Thunder Bay native and former OHL’er Kyle Tront.
But the biggest positive of the night was the first real signs of life the home crowd has shown all season (the numbers have been there; the emotions have not), which could rightly propel the Sabres to new heights if that sort of interest continues here this month.
There’s no denying the effect a boisterous crowd can have on a visiting team’s psyche—or on a home team’s positive energy levels—and the Sabres surely will need the “sixth man” in the stands to help them get out of what has become a strong SIJHL, with bottom-feeders like the Ice Dogs and Sioux Lookout Flyers coming closer to the pack while the Bearcats and Fort William North Stars continue to hold down the fort at the top.
No other team in the league can boast the same attendance numbers the Sabres currently enjoy, but the true difference-maker will be if those numbers stand behind their team and add a much-needed noise factor to the rest of the home schedule.
If it happens, we could see a transformation like the one the Arizona Cardinals achieved.
Confidence and momentum can be powerful equalizers, and if the Sabres’ fan base makes their presence known, the team on the ice just might write a Cinderella script of their own.

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