September in Buffalo seems like just part of the life routine for Keegan Asmundson. For the past four years, he packed up his life in Minnesota and relocated to Western New York for another hockey season.
Only this time, he’s not in college any more.
Now, Asmundson is a Canisius alumnus and his return to Buffalo is to take advantage of the opportunity to play for the Sabres in the Prospects Challenge.
The goaltender had a near storybook ending to a collegiate career where he patiently waited for his opportunity, then had to find his competitive fire to keep it. That led to pro opportunities last spring and now a chance to impress the brass in the Sabres organization.
“I played on a high school team that wasn’t very good and then in junior it was the same thing,” Asmundson said. “In college I had to put my time in. I’m proud of what I’ve done to get to this point now but I also know I’ve got a little more to push and hopefully take it to the next level and have a big story versus just the almost-could-have. … My dad would beat me up if I wasn’t a humble kid from Minnesota so I can’t get too big a head. But it’s been a hell of a ride and hopefully it can keep going.”
After spending three years as Canisius backup, Asmundson was ready to take the reins his final year. Only those first two months of the season were pretty pedestrian. At one point he lost his starting spot to a freshman.
He returned from the holiday break and set the Golden Griffins’ record book on fire. He said he was sick of being scored on – and he wasn’t very often. He set single season records in goals against (1.96) and save percentage (.930) along with the program’s career records (2.08 goals against average, .930 save percentage).
Asmundson became the backbone for a Griffs’ team which made its third straight appearance in Atlantic Hockey’s final four, losing to eventual champion RIT, 2-1, in the semifinals.
From there he signed with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL but his pro debut didn’t go all that great – he was the goalie of record as the Stingrays saw their record-setting 23-game winning streak end. Asmundson rebounded with a shutout the next night for his first pro win. He then earned the opportunity to go to Hershey for the AHL playoffs, serving as a practice goalie but getting invaluable experience about the next level of hockey.
“Obviously the play’s coming faster, the shots are pretty accurate and a little harder, a lot harder in some circumstances,” Asmundson said. “For me it’s just making sure I’m watching every puck off the stick. Staying low and reactive and doing the details. Just keep battling. As long as it stays out of the net, I think the coaches are happy and the fans don’t boo you. Just playing with confidence and watching the puck. As I said in school, I’m tired of getting scored on so I try not to do that too much.”
Asmundson is on a professional tryout contract that expires on Oct. 1. He knows he is with the Sabres through Sept. 14 – the last day of the Prospects Challenge. He hopes to earn a spot somewhere in the organization. His size (listed as 6-5, 227-pounds) with his athleticism make him an attractive option in goal for a number of teams.
But his goals remain simple and true to him:
“Have fun is the first one. Compete is the second one and then just try to earn my spot in the organization, wherever it ends up,” Asmundson said. “If those things go well and I get in, great. If not, I’ve got great exposure for the weekend, but they’ve given me a good opportunity to come from Canisius and stay in the organization.”