Devon Levi made 35 saves Friday. ©2024, Micheline Veluvolu, Rochester Americans

Sabres prospect Devon Levi dazzles in playoff debut as Rochester grabs lead

ROCHESTER – Following the Calder Cup Playoffs, Devon Levi will likely bid adieu to the minors for good. In his brief time here, the Sabres prospect has morphed into the Americans’ backbone, emerging as one of the AHL’s elite goalies.

Next season, Levi, 22, is expected to graduate to Buffalo, where he will compete for playing time with Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. In the meantime, the rookie has an opportunity to lead the Amerks on a deep postseason run.

In his postseason debut Friday, a 3-2 win over the Syracuse Crunch in Game 1 of the AHL North Division semifinal, Levi was a difference-maker, stopping 35 shots before the crowd of 7,466 fans in Blue Cross Arena.

As the Amerks held a one-goal lead with an extra Syracuse attacker on the ice, Levi made a pad save before stymieing the point-blank rebound attempt with 4.9 seconds left in the game.

“It hit my pad and I knew right away it was going right in the middle of chaos,” Levi said. “So just tried to lift my leg as fast as possible and push over, just try to take the bottom of the net. The shooter was in tight, so I just tried to get something on it.”

For Amerks coach Seth Appert, Levi’s ability to put away a weak tying goal earlier in the period was more impressive than the late saves.

At the 7:59 mark, Levi missed Jordy Bellerive’s blast from the top of the left circle, a shot he normally stops.

Instead of getting rattled after the Crunch erased an early two-goal deficit, he never blinked.

“He was excellent, and the beauty was he gave up a bad goal and it didn’t faze him,” Appert said. “That’s what’s so impressive being a young rookie goaltender in his first playoff games. And the save he made at the end, that’s his competitiveness, that’s his talent. That’s there. You know that’s always there.

“The composure to not be shook at all after giving up a squeaker is probably more impressive in his first playoff game.”

After Bellerive’s goal, winger Isak Rosen restored the Amerks’ lead, tipping defenseman Zach Metsa’s shot by goalie Brandon Halverson.

Rosen’s goal felt especially sweet considering Syracuse scored both of its goals with his line on the ice.

“We felt we need to get one back,” he said.

The Amerks jumped out early in the game, getting goals from newcomers Anton Wahlberg and Noah Ostlund, two of the Sabres’ best forward prospects.

Wahlberg, 18, scored 1:01 into the contest by driving to the net, toe-dragging and deking. Ostlund, 20, scored a power-play goal at 13:38, his first goal in the AHL.

Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Sunday afternoon in Rochester.

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