Goaltender Ben Kraws becomes the 27th Buffalo Jr. Sabres alumnus since 2003 to join the USHL after the 17-year-old New Jersey native recently joined the Sioux City Musketeers in Iowa.
Kraws’ introduction to ice hockey came at an early age thanks to a family-wide passion for the sport. From the early days of backyard competition against his brother, Kraws and his dad soon packed up the car and traveled around for further exposure and development. He began his playing career as a forward, then dropped back to defense before finding his true home between the pipes.
“I ended up being a goalie because I wanted to make difference in the game,” Kraws said. “My favorite thing about it was knowing the team relies on you and I have the chance to make big saves. I like being able to come up big when they need me to.”
Backstopping the Philadelphia Little Flyers, the then-12-year-old Kraws shined in net during a weeklong Pee Wee tournament in early 2013. As fate would have it, Kraws and the Jr. Flyers would knock off the Jr. Sabres in overtime.
Kraws’ successes continued and a natural progression to further competition followed two years later as he and his mother moved to Buffalo so that he could join the Jr. Sabres’ U-15 team. Kraws posted a career-best 1.18 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage in 11 regular-season appearances during his rookie campaign.
That same year, Kraws played in five games during the Tier 1 Elite League Playoffs and produced a 1.94 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. While the goaltender was thriving on the ice, the initial change off the ice was something he had to get used to.
“[The moving can be] difficult, but I made new friends [in Buffalo] so it was good,” Kraws said. “I think it was pretty essential to have the support of my parents.”
With his mom already in Buffalo, Kraws’ dad traveled more than six hours from the family’s Cranbury home to see all of the Jr. Sabres’ home games. As ice hockey so often becomes a family affair, Kraws followed the educational paths of his uncle and grandfather by enrolling at Saint Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in Buffalo.
“The [Jr. Sabres] goalie coaches were great,” Kraws said of former Buffalo Sabre Marty Biron and former Canisius College assistant coach John Daigneau. “Trusting the process is the hardest thing, but they helped me before practice pretty much every day.”
Over the next two seasons, Kraws played with the Jr. Sabres’ 16-U, 18-U and 20-U teams for a total of 24 regular-season games and four playoff games. In one of his favorite memories as a Jr. Sabre, Kraws and his 16U team made it to the state championship, where he said the experience was beneficial for him as a player. The 6’2’’, 159 pound, goalie also represented USA during the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial in his first overseas experience.
“The experience was a lot of fun and the culture over there was incredible,” Kraws said. “It was the same style of play, but it was a very different atmosphere. There were a lot of people and it was so loud.”
Kraws also had another memorable experience when he participated in the All-American Prospects Game in September. As a Buffalo resident, he was able to have family and friends come watch him when he played at KeyBank Center.
Looking ahead to his future, Kraws has already committed to Division I Miami University of Ohio. The feeling of brotherhood, along with the strong business program the school offers, is what Kraws credited to helping him make the decision.
As Kraws moves onto the USHL and away from the Jr. Sabres, he reflected back on all the people that have helped him through the early parts of his career.
“Thank you to everyone in Buffalo who helped me along the way especially Coach Peca and my goalie coaches.”
Good luck to Ben!
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