Adam Gaudette curled behind the net and worked his way into the left faceoff circle, the raucous Northeastern student section just above him in the balcony of Matthews Arena screaming encouragement as the Huskies desperately moved the puck around their offensive zone.
Northeastern trailed Providence, 4-3, in the final minute of a critical Hockey East showdown Jan. 26 when the junior forward from Braintree slid into his preferred position, just to the left of Friars goalie Hayden Hawkey. Linemate Dylan Sikura got control of the puck at the right dot and threaded a pass across the zone that landed softly on Gaudette’s stick, whipped instantly into the net.
“That’s my spot,’’ Gaudette said. “I don’t know why anyone wasn’t hanging out there. [Sikura] just found me, like he’s done a million times.”
Gaudette has been overlooked before. For instance, how is it that college hockey’s leading scorer was only recruited by one school?
When he scored 29 goals and 38 assists in 27 games as a junior at Thayer Academy, Northeastern was the only college to come calling.
Gaudette moved on to Cedar Rapids in the USHL for a year, where he recorded 30 points and a plus-23 rating as essentially a third-line player. When it was time for the 2015 NHL entry draft, all 30 teams repeatedly passed on him before Vancouver scooped him up in the fifth round, 149th overall.
In his three years at Northeastern, he has jumped higher in the national scoring ranks each season, landing on USA Hockey’s radar in the Olympic team selection process. Ultimately he was not chosen to go to PyeongChang.
Overlooked no longer, Gaudette is a Hobey Baker candidate and one-third of the Huskies’ offensive cavalcade of Gaudette, Sikura, and Nolan Stevens. Between them, they have 100 points, the highest-scoring trio in college hockey this season, and have taken 11th-ranked Northeastern to a 15-7-4 record entering Monday’s Beanpot matchup with No. 16 Boston College.
Gaudette has led the nation in points for most of the season and is tied for first (19-20—39) with Colorado College sophomore Nick Halloran. His 13 multipoint games are the most in college hockey. He scored 14 points in eight games in January.
Northeastern coach Jim Madigan, who frequently describes Gaudette’s puck pursuit as a “dog on a bone,” ticks off a list of things that make Gaudette stand out.
“He plays with passion, he works his butt off each and every shift, he never gives up on any puck,’’ Madigan said. “He’s hard to play against. He only knows one speed and that’s full-out every shift. It’s just that high-end compete level.”
Gaudette is counted on to score goals, but he’s also a penalty killer and has worked relentlessly to develop a 200-foot game and make himself NHL-ready, adding strength to his 6-foot-1-inch, 184-pound frame.
“Something I’ve always gone by is just never really be satisfied,’’ Gaudette said. “It’s something my dad really instilled in me growing up; he comes from a blue-collar, hard-working family. Same with my mom. Just hard work and determination is something I learned from them and that is how I play hockey, never be satisfied, always want more, just keep working hard and good things are going to come.’’
Gaudette got his start like so many hockey players, when his father, Doug, launched him onto the ice at the age of 2. Adam was not impressed.
“I quit a couple of times I think,’’ he said. “Scared of the Zamboni.’’
But a year or two later he was back, and he’s been on an upward trajectory ever since, with no signs of slowing down. Two younger brothers followed him onto the ice.
“We were known as the hockey family in our town.’’ he said.
That town was Taunton, but when Gaudette got the chance to attend Thayer in sixth grade, the whole family moved to Braintree to cut down on commuting. The effort was not lost on Adam, who said the dedication to family of his father, a firefighter, and his mother, a teacher — both still commute to Taunton for work — was an important part of his upbringing.
Now here comes the Beanpot, Boston’s annual hockey hoedown, played in Gaudette’s backyard. There’s something special about being a Boston kid playing in the Beanpot. Expect the TD Garden stands to be loaded with Gaudettes on Monday night. It won’t be just his parents and younger brothers. It’s also his grandparents on both sides, his cousins, his neighbors, his father’s firefighting colleagues — he has his own Gaud Squad.
Gaudette welcomes the inevitable pressure.
“I definitely feel pressure, feeling like you’ve got to score every game — which isn’t the best thing to be thinking,’’ he said, “but ever since I was a kid I’ve always liked the pressure situation. When I was playing baseball I was always a pitcher and I liked to come in when it was a close game where the game’s on the line. Pressure I think motivates me to do better. And gives me that extra excitement and adrenaline.’’
Northeastern, which won its first Hockey East tournament in 28 years in 2016 when Gaudette was a freshman, hasn’t won a Beanpot since 1988.
“I feel like it’s more special to us than the three other schools just because it’s been so long,’’ said Gaudette. “I think a lot of people are really itching to get one, me especially.’’