Freshman Gaudreau's Latest Dazzler Seals National Championship
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
TAMPA, Fla. The same split second it took his Boston College teammates to realize what a special talent Johnny Gaudreau is, is the same split second opponents have to figure it out when he's rushing at them.
And that's not nearly enough time.
Gaudreau's dazzling move and finish with mere minutes remaining in Saturday's national championship game, a goal that made it 3-1 and all but buried Ferris State, wowed the crowd. But his Eagles teammates were long past being wowed at that point.
"The first day I skated with him, I could tell the kid was special," said Pat Mullane, who centered Gaudreu's line. "I knew there would be some adjustment period for him, but you could tell the skill was there, the hands and the vision."
Gaudreau doesn't necessarily look the part, with his 5-foot-6 frame and baby face that belies uncanny hockey savvy.
"We looked at him and thought, 'This kid can't be that good,'" Paul Carey, the other winger on Gaudreau's line, said. "But in practice from day one, you could tell.
"Every day I get to practice with the guy and he does this stuff all the time. He's such a talent, he's a humble kid, and he's always working to get better too."
Gaudreau was relatively quiet in the game to that point, but that's what snipers do. Even with his team looking just to dump the puck and kill time, Gaudreau had the scorer's instinct to know it was the right time.
"I was thinking I'd just get it in deep," Gaudreau said. "I didn't want to have a turnover, like we've been talking about all season long to reduce. But I just went with my gut instinct, and the defenseman pinched a little and I kinda toe-dragged it around him and got the backhander off.
"I was trying to go top left. I don't really remember the goal. Maybe it went off the kid's stick — thanks."
Said Mullane, "That move he made, that's unbelievable, but I see that every day. He pulls that every day in practice and we say, 'Yeah, you're a loser, whatever.'
"He's such an unbelievable talent, but at the same time, he's so humble, so modest. He's the last person in the world to let anyone know how good he is. That's the most special part about it."
Gaudreau now has the label of "winner," too. He won a championship last year with Dubuque of the USHL, where he was named the league's Rookie of the Year. His teammate in Dubuque was T.J. Schlueter, a winger for Ferris State.
"I'll remember both championships for the rest of my life," Gaudreau said. "Unfortunately (Schlueter) wasn't on my side this time."
Of course, it's well-known now that Gaudreau almost never made it Chestnut Hill. Last summer, he was set to go to Northeastern. But then Greg Cronin resigned as coach, leaving the Huskies with a lot of unknowns. Gaudreau backed out of his commitment and decided to reconsider his options.
But Boston College was still not necessarily going to get him. Boston University was going to make a play, but had no scholarships available. Coach Jack Parker told Charlie Coyle he needed an answer on whether he was returning. Coyle said he was, and Gaudreau was left on the market.
Meanwhile, Phillip Samuelsson decided late in the summer to leave Boston College. That opened a scholarship there instead, and the Eagles gobbled up Gaudreau quickly. The kick in the pants to BU, of course, is that Coyle did wind up leaving, midway through this season, leaving the Terriers without Coyle or Gaudreau, and leaving their arch-rival with the goods.
All Gaudreau did was become the next great Boston College mighty-mite, following in the footsteps of Brian Gionta, Nathan Gerbe and Cam Atkinson, and doing more in his freshman year than any of them had. He has a Hockey East Tournament MVP award, a Northeast Regional MVP, and now a game-clinching, dazzling goal to cap a national championship.
"It was tough for my little brother and myself with three new coaches," Gaudreau said. "I wanted to revisit every school we could. Once we did, we knew BC was the place for us."
BC couldn't ask for a better fit.