Wexford’s Michael Houser wins NHL debut after more than 8 years in minors
BUFFALO, NY – Michael Houser stopped 34 shots in his NHL debut, Sam Reinhart scored twice in Buffalo’s three-goal third period and the Sabers beat the New York Islanders 4-2 on Monday night.
Tage Thompson and Rasmund Asplund also scored for Buffalo, who trailed 2-0 early in the second period.
“It’s super exciting. I’m not really into this form of gambling either. I admit it, ”said Houser, 28. “After the game celebration and everything, I could barely breathe so I’m just trying to catch my breath right now, yell at my parents at that and see what they think.”
Houser, originally from Youngstown, Ohio, grew up in Wexford and played youth hockey with the Pittsburgh Hornets. He has spent the past 8 and a half seasons in the minor leagues, playing 210 EHL games with three teams and 73 AHL games with four clubs.
It was his first game since March 7, 2020 with ECHL’s Cincinnati.
“A very special night, a special person,” said Sabers coach Don Granato. “So it’s great to be a part of it. And the locker room was even better. The gathering in the locker rooms was very, very pleasant for everyone. What moment.
Adam Pelech and Oliver Wahlstrom scored for the Islanders. Semyon Varlamov, who had three consecutive shutouts, finished with 36 saves.
The Islanders fell to fourth in the East Division, one point behind Boston, which beat New Jersey 3-0. The Bruins also have a game in hand against the Islanders.
“I thought we were playing a little arrogant,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “You know, let’s get in there, play our game, and we’d just say, ‘Oh, it’s gonna be easy, we’ve got a lead,’ and then we made it easy for them.”
The teams finish their season series Tuesday night in Buffalo.
Thompson’s power-play goal put the Sabers on the scoreboard with 5:56 left in the second period and ended Varlamov’s shutout streak at 248 minutes.
Asplund tied the score with 8:35 remaining in the third.
Reinhart gave the Sabers a 3-2 lead with 4:04 to go and sealed the win with an empty net, his career-high 25, with 52 seconds left.
“One hundred percent (disappointing),” Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech said. “Even though we clinched a playoff berth and had an emotional weekend (against the New York Rangers), that’s no excuse. … We need to be better tomorrow night and move forward for the rest of the season here before the playoffs.
Buffalo was without injured goalies Dustin Tokarski, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark.