When Johnny Gaudreau’s name was announced as the last selection of the Hockey East all-tournament team, the Boston College fans among the stragglers at TD Garden following the Eagles’ 4-1 victory Saturday night over Maine began chanting, “He’s a freshman!’’
It was a not-so-subtle message to the rest of the league that it could face Gaudreau for three more years.
But when it was time to announce the MVP, Gaudreau’s teammates knew the score. After he scored a pair of first-period goals to spot the Eagles a 2-0 lead, Gaudreau’s teammates knew he was a shoo-in for the Bill Flynn Trophy, just as he was for the Beanpot MVP.
“After the all-tournament team [was announced], we were like, ‘Keep your hat off, you’re going back up there,’ ’’ said junior Pat Mullane, who gave the Eagles a 3-1 lead at 18:39 of the second when he converted Gaudreau’s nifty pass from behind the Maine net.
If anyone was surprised, it was Gaudreau, who remained ever so humble.
“I was very surprised,’’ he said, after becoming the fifth freshman to be named Hockey East MVP, and fourth from BC, joining Chuck Kobasew (2001), Scott LaGrand (1990), and Brian Leetch (1987).
“I was excited to win,’’ Gaudreau said. “But it’s always an honor to win an award like that.’’
Asked if it gave him a sense of deja vu, taking him back to the Beanpot MVP presentation in February, Gaudreau acknowledged sheepishly, “Yeah, somewhat, but I was excited about it.’’
Gaudreau decided to play for BC after Northeastern coach Greg Cronin departed to become an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I remember over the summer when I heard he was coming to BC, everyone was like, ‘This kid is unbelievable,’ ’’ said Mullane, who centers Gaudreau and senior Paul Carey on a third line that last night combined for three goals and three assists.
“In my head, I knew there was no way a 5-foot-6, 150-pound kid could be that dominant,’’ Mullane added. “But he’s proved me wrong. He’s proved a lot of people wrong.’’
Gaudreau showed uncommon strength down low on both of his goals, converting on a shot from the right point from Patch Alber to make it 1-0 at 5:24. Then, nine seconds after Joey Diamond was sent off at 7:22 for interference, Gaudreau made the Black Bears pay when he beat Dan Sullivan with a rebound of a Mullane goal-mouth whack.
“He’s a character in the locker room. He’s a fun guy to be around,’’ Mullane said.
But on the ice? Gaudreau is all business.
“On the ice he works hard,’’ Mullane said. “He plays an honest brand of hockey.’’
There could be no greater compliment from a teammate than the one Mullane paid to Gaudreau.
“A lot of guys who are so offensive, like to take off defensively, but he’s coming back on the backcheck,’’ Mullane said. “He works so hard defensively, he’s really improved that part of his game that when we transition he works defensively so we can have the opportunities offensively.’’
Never once has his size - or lack thereof - been an issue when he has battled down low.
“No, because he’s so smart with the puck and he’s such a smart hockey player that he goes down low and he battles,’’ Mullane said. “If he needs to block a shot, he’ll block a shot. He understands the game so well, and he reads everything so well that he’s rarely out of position.’’
Which was the case on the assist Gaudreau had on Mullane’s goal, one in which the freshman fished the puck off the back of the net, swept around, and put it on Mullane’s stick.
“I was coming down Broadway and in my head I was like, ‘There’s no way he’s going to find me.’ And the next thing you know the puck is sitting right there on my stick,’’ Mullane marveled. “I’m like, ‘How does he do it?’ I got to the bench and I looked at him and I was like, ‘Where do you come up with this stuff?’ But that’s the type of player he is.’’