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Globe North Sports

After lost season at BU, Gaudet is a rising star

BU’s Ross Gaudet checks New Hampshire’s Dalton Speelman into the boards during a January game at Agganis Arena in Boston. BU’s Ross Gaudet checks New Hampshire’s Dalton Speelman into the boards during a January game at Agganis Arena in Boston. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
By Jason Mastrodonato
Globe Correspondent / March 28, 2010

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Ross Gaudet first caught the eye of Boston University men’s hockey coach Jack Parker while he was piling up dazzling numbers at Austin Prep High in North Reading.

His resume did most of the talking. He collected 153 career points in a Cougar uniform and earned Catholic Central League MVP honors his senior season (2007), when he propelled Prep to the Super 8 semifinals and was a Globe Super Teamer.

He didn’t leave as favorable an impression in his one season skating for the Bridgewater Bandits of the Eastern Junior Hockey League, with 28 points in 35 games. He was confident, though, that he would still land a roster spot when he arrived at BU in the fall of 2008. However, he came down with pneumonia and was sidelined for the first two months of the season.

By the time he was healthy again, his competition had already taken away his chance at playing time. And he quickly realized that the skill level at Boston University, and in Hockey East in general, was going to be much different than anything he had seen before.

“It was a difficult transition the first few weeks,’’ recalled the 6-foot, 195-pound forward. “The speed of the game is a lot quicker. There’d be times where I’d say, ‘Oh man, these guys are faster. They belong.’

“I didn’t feel too much pressure coming into it, but it was intimidating when you’re going into the season and you’re going against classmates where there are four or five who’ve been drafted.’’

And he was trying to carve out playing time on a Terriers squad that was on a march to the NCAA Division 1 championship.

Gaudet did not dress for a single game his freshman season. Then he watched a few of his teammates, including Hobey Baker winner Matt Gilroy (New York Rangers) and Brandon Yip (Colorado Avalanche), sign professional contracts.

“Not being drafted, coming into a situation like that, it can be a bit intimidating,’’ said Gaudet, a Burlington resident. “But I know if you work hard, coach [Parker] tells you that you have a chance.’’

Gaudet’s chance came this past season, after working with the Terrier coaches to prepare his body for the rigors of a demanding season.

“Things happened in his freshman year and he had to get acclimated to what we were doing,’’ said Parker. “And he also got in great shape for the first time in his life. He got much faster and much more effective for us.’’

Gaudet earned playing time, at left wing and center, and began to chip in key goals against Hockey East opponents. He scored his first two collegiate goals in back-to-back games, against Merrimack (Nov. 14) and New Hampshire (Nov. 20). He was named to the Hockey East honor roll after tallying two goals and an assist in games against Providence (Jan. 15) and Merrimack (Jan. 16). And he notched his first collegiate multiple-goal game with two goals in 6-2 win over UMass on Jan. 29. In 35 games, he finished the season with 10 goals and two assists for the Terriers, who finished 18-17-3 overall after being eliminated in the Hockey East semifinals.

“Without a doubt, one of the most improved players we’ve ever had here,’’ said Parker, who completed his 37th season on the bench at BU. “And he had a terrific season.’’

Parker had watched Gaudet often at Austin Prep, where the coach’s two nephews, Kevin and Kyle Meehan, also skated. He considered Gaudet a “can’t-miss player.’’

“I thought he was a real smart player, a real good player,’’ Parker said. “I thought he had a chance to play Division 1 hockey.’’

“He caught up to everybody and in many ways surpassed a lot of guys on this team with his talent, his vision, and his effort.’’

Unlike many players who excel early in their high school hockey careers only to move on to a junior team, Gaudet stayed at Austin Prep all four years. His younger brother, Cam, was a teammate for two years. This winter, the senior defenseman followed in Ross’s skates, copping league MVP honors.

“Both of those kids are tremendous athletes and I’m a big believer that it’s not where you are, it’s who you are,’’ said Austin Prep coach Louis Finocchiaro.

Gaudet was just one of three players from the Bay State on the Terriers roster last season.

As the number of players choosing to take an alternative route to high school has increased, there is a concern that the talent in Massachusetts is not as rich.

“I think there’s a big change in quality of players in Massachusetts because of how we’re developing them,’’ Parker said. “I think it might be a cycle kind of thing. Bottom line is, it’s been a bit of a drought lately.’’

Gaudet could end up like some of his friends playing in the NHL, who still remain in close contact with him.

“He’s going to be real good player in this league,’’ Parker said. “He’ll develop into one of our better players, there’s no question in my mind.’’

Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at jmastrodonato@globe.com