March 15, 2014 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Gaudreau Matches Kariya as BC Forces Game 3

Ties Hockey East Record in 4-Point Night

by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Johnny Gaudreau insists he's not concerned with records.

He's set a few in his three years at Boston College, but it's those trophies he's won with his teammates he likes to talk about. Saturday afternoon, Gaudreau tied another record. His assist on BC's first goal — the typically brilliant mix of timing, creativity and skill — matched Paul Kariya's Hockey East mark with a point in 31 straight games.

Following the Eagles' 4-2 win, Gaudreau dismissed even the allusion to the record. He wanted the win, the win that BC needed to keep its quest for another Lamoriello Trophy alive. The two goals and two assists he ended the game with were, of course, entirely the work of his teammates, he said.

"I didn't even know that until you told me," he said of the record. "It's pretty easy to do that when you're playing with Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes. I'm pretty thankful coach put us together toward the middle of the season. Playing with those two guys, my game just gets better and better."

By now, there isn't a soul in any college hockey rink or on any message board that isn't aware of Gaudreau's brilliance. The Little Engine That Always Does leads the nation in every meaningful offensive category and drives a BC offense that gives opponents nightmares.

Friday night, BC suffered an atypical setback. Notre Dame dropped the Eagles, 7-2, in the first game of a best-of-3 Hockey East quarterfinal series. The Irish suffocated the Eagles' offense, snuffing out every rush in the neutral zone and keeping Gaudreau in check.

"We came out harder in this game," he said. "The guys knew it was do or die game. We didn't want to send out our seniors with a loss in their last game at Conte."

The pressure that comes with his greatness is welcomed. And, as he said, he took the challenge heading into Saturday's game personally. It's tough to put up the numbers he does and remain oblivious to the status that comes with it. He wants to be mentioned along with Brian Gionta and Nathan Gerbe. He wants to be the best even if he publicly won't acknowledge anything but his teammates' hard work and the joy of winning.

"Whether I'm the leading scorer or not, it's a do or die game," he said. "I need to come out and make sure I'm at my best and help my teammates do everything we can to get a win."

It's performances like Saturday's that will get him the trophies he desires. The great players have to be great when the season can end if they're not. They have to be great when there's more to play for than in edge in the standings or some cover in the Pairwise.

Gaudreau's always been that player. However, as a junior, this is his team. There are captains, of course, and other talented players on the BC roster. None of them matter as much to BC's eventual success as Gaudreau.

BC coach Jerry York, long the mentor of gifted forwards like his current dynamo, prefers Gaudreau's insistence on selflessness. Everyone knows who the guy is, so there's no reason to say it publicly. Since he arrived at Conte after a failed commitment to Northeastern and a brief flirtation with some other programs, it was always going to be this way. At one point, Gaudreau was going to have to carry his team through a storm. Saturday's effort wasn't the first time, but it was most certainly the most important.

"We got a big push out of Bill Arnold's line," York said. "Johnny, in particular, was really at the top, top of his game.

"It's not about personal milestones with Johnny. He's unaware of (his records). He's one of those team-first type guys. It's refreshing as a coach when you see that when clearly your best player puts everything team first. He played awfully well tonight."

As a freshman, the nation received its first truly awe-inspiring example of his own greatness in the national championship game. With the Eagles leading Ferris State, 2-1, Gaudreau went 1-on-1 with an FSU defender, dangling through his legs and casually burning the Bulldogs' all-American goaltender moments after. The strike clinched a national championship for the Eagles.

That isn't what he remembers, though. At least not what he says he does. The championship BC won was his only concern. Getting back there this season is the ultimate goal.

"I was just trying to make sure I help my team get to a national championship and have one more season like I had freshman year," he said of his hope for the season. "It was such a great team, a great group of guys. It was really a memorable experience. I just want to get to Philly."

Saturday's win brought nothing of the sort. BC didn't win anything except a few more breaths in Saturday's 4-2 win over the Fighting Irish.

For Gaudreau, it was a day to remember. He scored a pair of goals that displayed his trademark cunning, his unparallelled vision. He added two more assists that gave the impression that everyone else on the ice is still learning a game he mastered some time ago.

But, no, Johnny Gaudreau doesn't care about those things. Nor will he say he cares about the Hobey Baker award he'll receive on April 11. The speech is already written more or less. Kevin Hayes and Bill Arnold's names will feature prominently. The trophy they hand out the following Saturday in Philadelphia is the one he wants.

At this point, there's no telling if Gaudreau and his Eagles will get that trip to Philadelphia. They don't even know if they'll be at the TD Garden next Friday night.

Right now, the only guarantee is a game Sunday afternoon with Notre Dame.

BC gets to play that game because of Johnny Gaudreau. Other Eagles had strong performances, and Notre Dame wasn't quite as sharp it was on Friday. The difference was evident, though. It was BC's first-line left winger, just as it has been all season — even if Gaudreau himself insists otherwise.

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