Gaudreau displays big talent
Crafty freshman getting job done
Surrounded by his Boston College teammates, especially Chris Kreider and Tommy Cross, who both stand 6 feet 3 inches and more than 200 pounds, it would be easy to lose sight of freshman forward Johnny Gaudreau.
At 5-8 and 150 pounds, just walking around campus can be intimidating for him. When fellow students see him with hockey equipment, they often call him “Stick Boy.’’
After last night’s Beanpot semifinal against Northeastern at TD Garden, that nickname could last. Gaudreau’s smooth stick work and intelligence earned him two crafty goals and an assist in the Eagles’ 7-1 victory over the Huskies to advance to the final against Boston University next Monday.
“I’ve heard all the jokes; a lot of funny ones,’’ said Gaudreau. “All the guys give me a hard time about it. It’s no big deal.’’
Gaudreau, who captain Steve Whitney thought was “a little kid’’ when the two first met, stepped onto the big stage last night and impressed right away.
After Pat Mullane took advantage of a Northeastern turnover in the neutral zone, Gaudreau drew both defenders his way before dropping a no-look pass behind him. With the slick pass, Paul Carey needed only a quick slap shot to beat goalie Chris Rawlings.
Gaudreau, a Flames draft pick, says he’s always been known for his offensive ability, so when he showed up at Boston College in the fall, he made it a point to prove his defensive ability. At his size, he figured that was the best way to gain respect.
He earned some in the first period last night by intercepting a pass at Northeastern’s blue line, weaving through the Huskies’ zone, and beating Rawlings between the pads for the eventual winner.
Gaudreau potted his second goal at 8:58 of the second to make it 4-1.
“He’s one of the highly skilled players in the league,’’ said Whitney. “So he just sometimes lets his skill take over and that’s what happens.”
It’s been a long road for the forward from Carneys Point, N.J. When he was 16, Northeastern was the only Hockey East school that showed interest.
Former NU head coach Greg Cronin and assistant Albie O’Connell made Gaudreau know that he was wanted on Huntington Avenue. Gaudreau committed to be a Husky, but after Cronin left to join the Maple Leafs as an assistant coach and O’Connell left to join Ted Donato’s staff at Harvard, suddenly another opportunity opened.
Boston College had one more scholarship to give and Gaudreau got the call, making a perfect fit for a program that had five players at 5-8 or shorter playing last night.
“I think we were one of the first college programs - a lot are like us now - to recognize that smaller players who play with grit, and they’re strong on skates, can be major, major factors in the game,’’ said BC coach Jerry York.
“I was a little nervous coming in,’’ Gaudreau said. “But all the coaches just said, ‘Play my game,’ and ever since that I feel like they’re letting me do more. It gives me more momentum.’’
Gaudreau didn’t anticipate scoring the winning goal in a Beanpot game, but his big smile couldn’t be hidden afterward.
“When I was younger, I was watching the BC-BU rivalry and always watching the Beanpot,’’ he said. “And I’ve always dreamed about playing in one. So just to get the chance to play in one, let alone do well, was awesome experience for me.’’
With 11 goals, Gaudreau leads Hockey East freshmen in scoring, making him believe his decision to join Boston College was the right one.
“It’s always more intense when you’re playing against a team you played for or were going to play for,’’ he said. “But this has been a lot of fun. I have no regrets.’’