Dylan Cozens drops the gloves in first NHL fight

The last place Buffalo Sabres haven’t had a whole lot to cheer about this season, especially after COVID-19 recently sidelined the team for a spell, but one of the bright spots has been Whitehorse’s Dylan Cozens.

Cozens is currently tied for fifth on the team in goals with three – equal to the goal totals of teammates Jack Eichel, Taylor Hall and Jeff Skinner combined, something that also helps explain why the Sabres are so far down the standings.

The Sabres were at Madison Square Garden on March 2 for a matchup with the New York Rangers, losing 3-2.

This Buffalo squad has been accused of going through the motions at various points this year, but Cozens did what he could to light a fire under his team in the third with a decisive victory in his first NHL fight against Ryan Lindgren.

Cozens looked the part, landing the majority of the blows in the fight and knocking Lindgren’s mouthguard clean out of his mouth.

Best of all for the Sabres, the fight came within the run of play and wasn’t just frustration bubbling over.

“I’ve been thinking about getting in one for a few games here and I was just waiting for the right time,” Cozens said after the game. “He asked me to go, and I took the opportunity. We’re down a goal in the third; I want to spark the boys a bit.”

He said he didn’t do a lot of fighting at the junior hockey level, but was always ready.

“I hadn’t really fought too much in junior – my coaches didn’t really want me to,” Cozens said. “It’s something I was prepared to do at all times, but I didn’t really get into that too much in junior.”

After the game, Sabres winger Kyle Okposo said the tilt had the desired effect.

“I think that was probably the most fired up we’ve been all season,” Okposo said. “I wasn’t surprised. He’s got that old-school hockey in him. He plays the game the right way, he’s solid defensively.”

Cozens also gave a nod to his roots and the difficulties coming up as a prospect in the Yukon.

“I think it just comes from being a kid raised in the Yukon and never really having it easy, always having to work for everything,” Cozens said. “It’s just the way I was raised. I like having that grit in my game. I think that’s something that’s big to have and I like being a player that can play both sides of the game.”

The Sabres are back in action March 4 for the first of three against the New York Islanders. The two teams also tango on March 6 and 7. Buffalo is 6-11-3 this season and 2-7-1 in its last 10 games.

Cozens is in the top 30 on the NHL rookie scoring list and tied for ninth in rookie goal scoring.