In less than a year, Keegan Asmundson has traveled quite a few miles and has come full-circle.
A year ago, he was stepping into a new world of hockey at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, taking the net for the South Carolina Stingrays – who were riding an ECHL-record 23-game winning streak – in front of a loud and raucous crowd.
That night, he played well – but the Indy Fuel skated away with a win.
It was his first pro game – capping a month that began with Asmundson as the Canisius College Golden Griffins’ standout netminder, and ended with him being a part of a team that was poised to make a run to the Kelly Cup Finals.
He smiled when recollecting the memories of that night.
“To start the pro career off here on a 23-game win streak was a little bit of a challenge, but it was fun at the same time,” Asmundson said.
So Sunday, when this time he led the Indy Fuel onto the Indiana Farmers Coliseum ice to cheers, he was no longer a confident goaltender stepping into an unknown level, but a netminder with a year of pro experience behind him – and a lot of miles in the process.
The Fuel signed him in mid-February after Mac Carruth’s extended callup to the AHL left the team with one goaltender. They briefly had Cedrick Desjardins loaned from the New York Rangers’ organization, but he too was called up to the AHL, creating a need for a goaltender.
The 6-foot-5 Minnesota native has taken advantage.
He’s posted a 1.96 goals against average in five games with the Fuel, and has done so despite drawing some tough assignments – he’s started road games against the top team in each conference – the Toledo Walleye and Missouri Mavericks – and has played three games against the Cincinnati Cyclones. In his first start in Cincinnati, he faced 16,000 fans and a big home winning streak, and thwarted both with a 3-2 shootout victory. He held Toledo’s high-powered offense to two goals in a loss the next day.
On Sunday, he made his home debut and had a stellar performance with his parents and grandfather watching from the corner. He stopped 35 of 36 shots – coming 3:25 away from a shutout – in a 2-1 victory over the Cyclones at the Coliseum.
“He played great,” Fuel coach Bernie John said of Asmundson’s play in Sunday’s game. “He’s so big back there and so calm, he did a great job just covering his angles. There wasn’t a lot of great second opportunities, and when there was, he was up to the task.”
Between starts on the Indiana Farmers Coliseum ice, he’s logged a lot of miles – a journey that has taken him through every level of pro hockey.
After that 3-2 loss in his debut with the Stingrays in Indy, Asmundson had a shutout the next night. He followed with another victory later, and then went up to the Stingrays’ AHL affiliate – the Hershey Bears – as a practice goaltender in the playoffs last season. He also earned an invite to the Buffalo Sabres’ rookie camp in the summer.
He started the 2015-16 year with the Evansville IceMen. He had a 4.58 GAA in seven games in Evansville, and then played briefly in the SPHL with Pensacola. There, he stopped 91 of the 96 shots he faced, had a shutout, and won all three of his starts.
“This year has been a really good learning experience,” Asmundson said. Obviously, the pros are a bit different than college, both on and off the ice. It was a little tougher for me to adjust at first, but I was able to figure out what worked for me, what worked in my game and hopefully, I can keep it going the rest of the year.”
Asmundson has continued rolling in Indy, as his save percentage keeps going the same direction as his comfort level. His GAA with the Fuel – 1.96 – is identical to that of his senior year at Canisius last season, and his .936 save percentage is nearly identical to that of his final college year.
In that final year, he set Canisius’ records for goals against average and save percentage (.930), both for a single season and for a career.
“The game is kind of similar,” he said of the differences between the college and pro game. “For me, it was more the off-ice stuff. Guys have kids, guys have family. That’s a little different than dorm rooms and hockey houses.”
He’s enjoying his current organization, too, earning a full-time roster spot alongside Carruth, who returned from the AHL last week.
“This organization has been top-notch from top to bottom,” Asmundson said. “I feel right at home since the first day. Hopefully, I stay here for a long time.”