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Two goalies of the future look for roles with Sabres

Cal Petersen entered the record books. Jason Kasdorf exited his hometown team.

Neither thought it was possible, and neither will ever forget it.

Petersen and Kasdorf, two Sabres prospects vying for the title of “goalie of the future,” arrived in Buffalo for development camp with life-altering experiences in their rearview mirrors. Petersen became a college celebrity after making 87 saves during a playoff game. Kasdorf came to the Sabres in one of the biggest trades in team history.

While they hope the best is in front of them, they’ll look back often.

Petersen’s night in March featured the longest game in NCAA history. The Notre Dame goalie took part in seven intermissions. As the breaks added up, so did the shots.

“Guys were joking around in the locker room that they wanted me to hit the century mark, but they didn’t know if the scoreboard went that high,” Petersen said Tuesday. “The game was obviously a lot of fun.”

The 20-year-old got calls, texts and headlines from around the hockey world after stopping 87 shots during a 4-3, five-overtime loss to Massachusetts. It was part of a fabulous freshman season that saw Petersen become the go-to guy for the Fighting Irish.

“I was very fortunate to get a lot of opportunities to play and play in some big situations,” Petersen said in First Niagara Center. “It was a really big growth year for me, and I kind of found a way to know my game a lot better than I did before and kind of take it to a new level.”

Petersen arrived on campus and promptly played in 33 of 42 games. He went 13-16-3 with a .919 save percentage.

“I wasn’t guaranteed anything going in, but I was guaranteed if I came in and worked hard there’d be an opportunity to play right away,” he said. “As a goaltender, that’s how I want it.”

The early success has made Petersen one of the most-watched goalies at development camp. Even with the draft-day acquisition of Robin Lehner, goaltending is one of the Sabres’ biggest question marks. They have NHL hopefuls in Petersen, Kasdorf, Linus Ullmark, Andrey Makarov and Jonas Johannsson, but they don’t have a surefire future starter.

General Manager Tim Murray figures at least one player will separate himself from the pack.

“Mr. Murray has made it clear it’s whoever steps up in camps like this and in their seasons are the ones who are going to get the shots,” Petersen said. “Hopefully, that opportunity arises because that’s definitely what I’m striving for.”

Kasdorf joined the pack in a February trade chockful of big names. Evander Kane was a 30-goal talent who’d become the most notorious person in hockey. Tyler Myers was a former Rookie of the Year. Zach Bogosian and Drew Stafford were first-round picks.

Then, at the end of the transaction between Buffalo and Winnipeg, was Kasdorf. He was a late-round pick still trying to find his way in college. With so many other names, no one thought much of him at the time.

Kasdorf, however, couldn’t stop thinking of the deal. He was a Winnipeg native who hoped to one day play for his hometown team. That dream was over.

“A lot of mixed emotions,” he said. “I was excited because Buffalo is a great organization, and they’ve got a great history. I’m really excited to be part of the program. Obviously, being traded from Winnipeg, my hometown, it was tough. It’s all part of the business.”

It didn’t take long for Kasdorf to learn what to expect in Buffalo. Two teammates on Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, goalie Scott Diebold and defenseman Chris Bradley, are from Western New York. They prepped Kasdorf on the joys of Sabreland. The 23-year-old is excited to be here, and he’s eager to show his worth during his first organizational gathering.

Kasdorf has had an up-and-down collegiate career. He set a school record as a freshman with a 1.62 goals-against average while starting 22 games. He played only two games his sophomore season because of a dislocated shoulder.

He went 11-19-2 with a .902 save percentage this season while again missing time with an injury. He hopes a solid senior season will vault him to the pros.

“It’s definitely tough missing a whole year of hockey and then playing this year, but it was nice to kind of get my feet under me,” Kasdorf said. “There were games where I was feeling myself, but just a lot of inconsistencies. I’m trying to work that out over the summer so I can have a good season next year.”

email: jvogl@buffnews.com

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