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by Kevin Snow / Buffalo Sabres
TRAVERSE CITY, MI --- The final score was the same as Saturday, but Buffalo’s 6-3 win over Columbus on Sunday afternoon in their second game of the 2011 NHL Prospect Tournament was a vastly different performance than opening day.


The Sabres came out flying in the first period, outshooting the Blue Jackets 14-11. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Riley Boychuk (his second of the tournament) and Gregg Sutch, and probably should’ve had a few more if they had been able to capitalize on the huge rebounds from Columbus goaltender Mathieu Corbeil.

Buffalo didn’t have any jump to start the second period, and goals from Boone Jenner and Cody Goloubef just 1:35 apart early in the period evened the score at 2-2. Buffalo’s Shawn Szydlowski picked off an errant Blue Jackets clearing pass late in the period, and beat Corbeil glove side at 17:16 to send Buffalo to the dressing room with a 3-2 lead that they would never relinquish.

Watching all this unfold was Sabres netminder Ryan Rondeau. The undrafted Rondeau is at the tournament on an amateur tryout, and allowed three goals on 26 shots in his first professional game following a four-year collegiate career at Yale University. Rondeau kept the Sabres in the game with some big saves, including a highlight-reel glove grab early in the contest.

The 25-year-old Rondeau (he is the oldest player in the tournament) is coming off a remarkable season at Yale where he set school records in wins (27) and shutouts (6), while posting a microscopic 1.92 GAA. What makes these numbers so impressive is that Rondeau had only played in 14 games during his first three years at Yale, posting just six victories and zero shutouts.

Heading into his senior season, Rondeau knew he had to make some adjustments if there was to be anymore hockey beyond college. As he put it, before last year, days like today were “looking pretty far away.” 

But rather than tweak his style, he went straight to the top: his head. Rondeau sought out the advice of a sports psychologist. Not playing a lot in his first three seasons was starting to weigh on him mentally, and he needed to find a way to get over it.

“It was pretty much everything,” Rondeau explains. “Not playing regularly was one, but it was also about learning how to keep an even keel throughout games, and from game-to-game. We talked about going through the same routine every game just to keep myself centered and maintaining my concentration level. We talked about everything, but the biggest thing was learning how to develop a game day routine that always made me comfortable whenever I would step out on the ice.” 

Rondeau’s hard work both on and off the ice has paid off. He graduated from Yale with a degree in Political Science, and he’s already signed a contract to play with the Laredo Bucks of the Central Hockey League.

“I knew I had it in me, it was just a matter of unleashing it and finding it.”

NOTES: Buffalo has now outscored their opponents 6-1 in the third period over the first two games… Luke Adam, Cedrick Henley and Nick Crawford also scored for Buffalo, and Zack Kassian finished the day with a pair of assists… Szydlowski was an assist shy of the “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” following his first period tussle with Dalton Smith… Buffalo’s five scratches were Steven Beyers, Kevin Sundher, Corey Tropp, Corey Finehage and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc.

UP NEXT: Monday is an off-day for tournament games, and the Sabres will hold a team meeting instead of practicing. They will next face Detroit on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Buffalo is the only undefeated team in their division, putting them in good position to play in Wednesday’s championship game at 7 p.m.

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