PHILADELPHIA — The ceremony was thirty minutes of waiting for the obvious. Everyone gathered inside the Millennium Ballroom at the Loews Hotel already knew how it would end. St. Cloud State’s Nic Dowd and Greg Carey of St. Lawrence were obviously honored to be nominated for the 2014 Hobey Baker Award, but even they knew they weren’t going to hear their names announced as the winner.
So when Johnny Gaudreau of Boston College heard his named called as the best college hockey player in the nation for the 2013-14 season, it was a coronation that everyone saw coming back in October.
“I never thought it’d happen,” said Gaudreau. “Coach York’s been putting me with great players in my career here. It’s hard not play well when you’re playing such great players.”
No player dominated college hockey the way the Carneys Point, N.J. native did this season. His 36 goals and 80 points were tops among all players. It was video game hockey watching Gaudreau on the ice. Opponents seemed resigned to watching him play like he was being controlled by a joystick.
Described by Denver head coach Jim Montgomery as “the straw that stirs the drink,” Johnny Hockey was aided by his two linemates, Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes. The trio was formed back in November by head coach Jerry York and it paid off with Boston College’s top line by finishing in the top five among all scorers. Game-planning against that line was foolish, with opponents not focusing on shutting the trio down completely, but just trying to limit the damage.
A Hobey Baker finalist in 2013, Gaudreau scored 14 more goals and recorded 26 more points for Boston College in 2013-14. Montgomery joked after losing to the Eagles in the first round of the NCAA tournament that one thing he’d want for next season is a clone of the Boston College junior.
Opposing coaches say that it’s hard to game plan against Gaudreau. What you see on film doesn’t equate to the on-ice experience of trying to defend him. If you try to play him physical game or give him too much time and space and he’ll make you pay.
“[You] try to finish your hits on him but you can’t be too aggressive or you’ll look foolish,” said Union head coach Rick Bennett, who’s Dutchmen defeated Boston College in Thursday’s Frozen Four semifinal.
Gaudreau, a 2011 draft pick of the Calgary Flames, signed his entry-level contract on Friday night along with teammate Bill Arnold and will travel with the team to Vancouver for the season finale.
Three days after his college career ended, his NHL career may begin. The work and dedicatiomn when he was younger paid off.
“I got cut from a few teams and it put me down a little bit," said Gaudreau, "but I had a lot of great coaches growing up that told me to just keep pushing and it will all work out, and it did.”
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