Asmundson to play in Sabres Prospect Challenge

By: Marshall Haim

Sports Writer

Keegan Asmundson finished his senior year with the Griffs hockey team last season with a loss in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals to the eventual tournament champion, the Rochester Institute of Technology. He led the Golden Griffins to their third consecutive trip to the semifinals, but his hockey career didn’t end there. Asmundson will be donning the Buffalo Sabres sweater when the first-ever Prospects Challenge begins this upcoming weekend.

The Prospects Challenge, a 3-team round robin tournament, will begin Saturday and conclude on Monday. The tournament will feature two games at First Niagara Center, while the other game will take place at HARBORCENTER. Prospects from the Sabres will play prospects representing the Boston Bruins and the New Jersey Devils.

He was invited to play with the Sabres for the tournament and will be one of three goaltenders on the team along with C.J. Motte and Andrey Makarov. Out of the three goaltenders, Asmundson is surprisingly the oldest, at age 25, and when comparing stats from last season with the other two, he was visibly the better goaltender.

He ended his senior year at Canisius with a record of 13-8-4 and had a Griffs all-time season and conference best in goals against average of 1.96. His save percentage was also the best in Griffs ice hockey history with .930.

On top of the record setting statistics from last season, Asmundson was named the Atlantic Hockey Conference’s Goaltender of the Month twice and Goaltender of the Week four times. He was also given All-Atlantic Hockey Second Team honors, the first Griffin goalie to receive the honor since 2004-05.

The only player that can really be compared with Asmundson is Motte. The 6’0”, 23-year old, started all of Ferris State’s 40 games last season and finished with an 18-20-2 record. He finished the season with a goals against average of 2.07 and a save percentage of .922. He also added four games in net for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League (AHL), going 1-2-1, with a goals against average of 2.49 and a save percentage of .917.

After the 2013-14 season, Motte was a member of the Top 10 in the Hobey Baker Award voting. The award is handed out to the best collegiate hockey player every year. In his four seasons of playing at Ferris State, he ranks as number one in their school’s history for wins (66), goals against average (2.13), and save percentage (.926).

Andrey Makarov is the youngest representative for the Sabres goaltenders in the tournament at the age of 22, but he does have experience playing in the NHL. He played one game last season with the Sabres on April 4, getting credit for the loss against the New York Islanders. In addition with the one game with the Sabres, Makarov played 39 games for the Sabres’ AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. He allowed an average of 2.91 goals a game and had a save percentage of .905.

Asmundson currently has a contract with the South Carolina Stingrays of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). The 6’5” goaltender from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, played three games with the Stingrays, earning a 2-1 record. He allowed an average of 1.67 goals per game and had a save percentage of .925.  

This past April, the Stingrays loaned Asmundson to the Hershey Bears, another member of the AHL. He dressed for four of their games, including two during their playoff run, but never saw action.

“It continues to reinforce the process that begins with recruiting and ends with graduation, that you can go the highest level of pro hockey going through Canisius,” Griffs Head Coach Dave Smith said about how much it means for Asmundson to be invited to the tournament at the highest stage of professional hockey. “We were able to develop him and take a high quality athlete and a high quality person and shape him to be ready for pro hockey.”

Asmundson left very big shoes to fill at Canisius as he holds career records at Canisius for goals against average (2.08) and save percentage (.930). This upcoming season, the Griffs as a whole will be quite young, but especially at the goaltender position. The Griffs will dress sophomore Reilly Turner and freshman Simon Holfey between the pipes.

“I think we’ve had a stretch of four or five goalies now that have been continuing to break each others records,” Smith said about the goaltender situation he’s had to deal with in the past. “Keegan wasn’t going to have the longevity of his career, but he put it all into one season. I think he’s passed along to the younger guys, his attitude and his ability to keep an even keel and not get too high or too low with any situation.”

Turner played 13 games last season for the Griffs, starting all but two of his appearances. Holfey never got the opportunity to be a teammate of Asmundson’s, but with the statistics and the records that Asmundson has accumulated, he has left an everlasting impact on the program.

Asmundson has three chances to play, Saturday at 7:00 p.m. at First Niagara Center, Sunday 7:00 p.m. at HARBORCENTER, and Monday also at 7:00 p.m. back in First Niagara Center.  While there is no guarantee Asmundson will start a game it’s safe to say the Sabres will at least want to give him a shot in net.

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