A former Cincinnati Cyclones goalie made his debut in the NHL on Friday, and he made it count.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 36 saves for the Buffalo Sabres in the team's 6-4 win against the Boston Bruins. It was the first time the Sabres beat Boston since Dec. 16, 2018.
"Ukko has worked very hard for this opportunity and we are excited to see him fulfill his dream of playing in the NHL," Matt Thomas, Cyclones head coach, said in a press release. "His dedication and commitment to excellence was evident in his time in Cincinnati. He is deserving of the first step in what we know will be a long productive career."
Luukkonen, originally from Finland, played for the Cincinnati Cyclones during the 2019-2020 season after recovering from hip surgery. The Cyclones opted out of the 2020-2021 season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
During his time with Cincinnati, Luukkonen, 22, appeared in 23 games and had a 12-7-3 record, 2.24 goals against average and 91.2% save percentage, according to a statement from the team. He was named ECHL Goaltender of the Month for November 2019 after stopping 22 and 23 shots in back-to-back shutouts.
During his April 23 debut with the Buffalo Sabres, Luukkonen was hit for a goal in the first period when Sabres defense left Bruins' Steven Kampfer uncovered. But the young goalie rebounded and denied 28 consecutive shots after that.
"That wasn't the way I imagined the start would be," Luukkonen told reporters Friday. "But I think we played really well today as a team. Huge thanks to the boys today. We played a really solid game."
According to a release, Luukkonen is the 25th former Cyclones player to move to the NHL.
As CityBeat reported in March, the Cyclones will host its first home game of the season on October 30 against the Indy (Indianapolis) Fuel at Heritage Bank Center. It will be the Cyclones’ first game in about a year and a half, as the coronavirus pandemic canceled the end of the 2019-2020 season and the Cyclones opted out of the 2020-2021 season.
Cincinnati’s pro hockey team last played March 11, 2020, in Toledo. The Cyclones’ last home game was March 7 of last year.