Boston College sophomore forward Johnny Gaudreau is one of the most talented players in college hockey.
The Hockey East Player of the Year leads the Eagles in scoring with 20 goals and 30 assists, and in two seasons at BC, has compiled 41 goals and 53 assists in 78 games. He is a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, and was a major reason why Team USA won the World Junior Hockey Championships in January.
Union College sophomore defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Charlie Vasaturo know very well how talented Gaudreau is. Gostisbehere was a teammate of Gaudreau’s on Team USA, and Vasaturo skated with Gaudreau in their native New Jersey.
The ECAC Hockey tournament-champion Dutchmen (21-12-5) will face Gaudreau and the Eagles (22-11-4), the defending national champions, in the NCAA hockey tournament East Regional semifinals at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I.
Gaudreau had seven goals and two assists in seven games during the WJC. The player they call “Johnny Hockey” picked up his game in the medal round. He had a hat trick in a 7-0 rout of the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals, and had two goals and an assist in a 5-1 victory over Canada in the semifinals. Team USA beat Sweden, 3-1, for the gold medal.
In last year’s NCAA Frozen Four championship game, Gaudreau scored an incredible goal late in the third period to give BC a 3-1 lead over Ferris State. Gaudreau corralled a bouncing puck at the BC blue line, and escaped the backcheck of Ferris State left winger Kyle Bonis. Then, Gaudreau dangled the puck past Bulldogs defenseman Brett Wysopal and lifted a backhander over goalie Taylor Nelson’s right shoulder. The Eagles went to win, 4-1.
Gaudreau is only 5-foot-8 and weighs 153 pounds, but stopping him isn’t easy
“He’s really, really good,” Gostisbehere said. “He’s really shifty. You can’t hit him. You think at 150 pounds, you can just crush him. But it’s a lot harder than you think.
“He’s very elusive, very fast, very crafty. He’s the total package. He’s real good.”
Gostisbehere has some advice on how the Dutchmen can stop Gaudreau.
“Don’t look at the puck,” Gostisbehere said. “Just keep him in front of you. Always know where he is. He floats around sometimes. He can get lost very easy. Next thing you know, he could be putting it in the back of your net.”
Vasaturo and Gaudreau have been good friends for years.
Vasaturo is from Sewell, N.J., while Gaudreau hails from Carneys Point, N.J.
“His dad taught us how to skate and how to play,” said Vasaturo, who is out for the season with a right-ankle injury. “I give a lot of credit to his dad. I’ve known him since I’ve been playing hockey,
basically. He’s been thrown down a bit for his size, but he proves people wrong. He’s a good player, and he’s definitely a player we should watch for this weekend.”
Vasaturo isn’t surprised by the success Gaudreau has achieved.
“Every year, people are telling him that he’s too small for this, and he wins the USHL championship [with the Dubuque Fighting Saints],” Vasaturo said. “Then, [they say] he’s not going to do well in college, and he wins there. He wins a lot. Hopefully, his streak of winning will end this weekend.”
TICKETS ON SALE
Tickets for the East Regional are on sale at the Union athletics box office in Alumni Gym.
The three-game full-session tickets for adults are $75, $55 for seniors and youth and children 2 and under are free. Single-session (one day) prices are $45. Call 388-6020. Union’s box office will accept orders until Wednesday.
Saturday’s other semifinal pits ECACH regular season-champion Quinnipiac against Atlantic Hockey tournament champion Canisius.
UNION MOVES UP
Union made a big leap in the latest USCHO.com/NCAA hockey poll Monday.
The Dutchmen climbed from 18th to 13th in the poll. Union captured its second straight ECACH tournament title Saturday with a 3-1 win over Brown.
BC, which lost to Boston University, 6-3, in Friday’s Hockey East tournament semifinals, fell from fourth to sixth.
Meanwhile, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute fell out of the poll. The Engineers, who were 19th last week, were edged out by Canisius, 53-52, for the No. 20 spot.