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College hockey notebook

Gaudreau feels he made right move to BC

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / October 28, 2011

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When Boston College visited Northeastern last Saturday for the teams’ first meeting of the season, Johnny Gaudreau suited up in the visitors’ locker room.

A few months back, the deft forward was headed for Huntington Avenue to play for the Huskies, until fate intervened.

Northeastern coach Greg Cronin left to join the Toronto Maple Leafs as an assistant coach, and assistant coach Albie O’Connell left to join Ted Donato’s staff at Harvard. So Gaudreau evaluated his options and decided to join the Eagles instead.

So far, so good. Heading into tonight’s game at UMass-Lowell, the 18-year-old Gaudreau is tied for third on the team in scoring with 7 points in six games - 4 of them coming in a 6-2 victory at North Dakota Oct. 8.

Gaudreau said the switch wasn’t easy, but he thought it was for the best.

“It started off with Greg leaving, because I really enjoyed going to visit the school when he was there,’’ said Gaudreau. “But probably one of my biggest concerns was Albie. They said he probably wasn’t going to get his job back there.

“I would’ve stayed probably if Albie would’ve stayed, since he recruited me. But after he left, I kind of felt like it was going in a different direction and everyone else was leaving the school, too, and I didn’t think it was a very good situation for me.’’

The 5-foot-8-inch, 150-pounder thought his slight stature would fit in with BC’s history of small, fast forwards such as Nathan Gerbe and the Gionta brothers.

“I always noted that BC had small guys,’’ said Gaudreau, a native of Carneys Point, N.J. “Me and my brother, we’re both 5-8 and we felt it would be good to come to BC because coach [Jerry] York likes small players.

“When we came to campus, we loved it from the second we got on campus, so it was kind of a good fit.’’

Gaudreau, who was selected by Calgary in the fourth round of June’s NHL draft, plays the left side on a line with Pat Mullane and right wing Steven Whitney.

“They’ve been helping me out a ton,’’ he said. “I don’t think I’d be playing as well if it wasn’t for those two.’’

Gaudreau said his coming-out party at North Dakota helped him get his feet wet, in terms of point production.

“It was a fun weekend,’’ he said. “It was good to get that first goal and assist out of the way. I kind of felt like I had some pressure off my back. I could just play hockey.’’

York said the team is thrilled to have him, something that was made possible when defenseman Philip Samuelsson left school early - leaving open a scholarship.

“He’s such a calm, cool young man, I don’t think much bothers him,’’ said York. “He’s a special young guy.’’

No letdown at Merrimack

If Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy was concerned about his team resting on its laurels after an outstanding 2010-11 campaign, a 4-0-0 start indicates otherwise.

“My biggest concern coming off last year was not about our goals, but about our willingness to work towards them,’’ said Dennehy. “The human species is easily satisfied, and it would be very easy for our returning players, of whom we have 20, to [rest on last year].

“But so far, I’ve been really happy with our work ethic and our commitment to attaining the goals we’ve set out for us. We didn’t win anything last year. We won 25 games but we didn’t win any championships.’’

One reason this year’s squad is so motivated is a two-day training session it had with a former Navy SEAL on Tenean Beach in Dennehy’s native Dorchester through the leadership training organization “The Program.’’

“We took a lot out of that,’’ said Merrimack senior Karl Stollery, the team’s leader on defense. “It was definitely very challenging. I think it made us stronger in the end.

“It’s pretty incredible what those guys go through - not only a couple of days like we did but all the time. We gained an appreciation for what those guys do.’’

A Bigos difference

Speaking of the Warriors, one of their most improved players is also their biggest: junior defenseman Kyle Bigos, who is 6-5, 235 pounds. Bigos has always been noticeable and is a fan favorite, but instead of running around looking for the big hit - which was sometimes the case in the past - he has become much more of an impact player.

“There’s more seriousness to his purpose, and it’s paying off,’’ said Dennehy. “We’re able to see some of the special things that he can bring to the table.’’

Bigos had a terrific goal against Northeastern Friday, and Saturday against Connecticut, in a very physical third period, he kept his cool, which hasn’t always been the case.

“He’s got good instincts and he’s never been more efficient,’’ said Dennehy. “In past years, I might have been concerned he’d get thrown out of the [UConn] game. But the third was his best period of hockey since he’s been here.’’

Grounded Eagle

Tough news for BC’s blue line corps, with junior defenseman Patrick Wey sidelined 6-8 weeks after having surgery Monday to repair a severed tendon in his right foot. . . . Hard to believe that New Hampshire, one of the most successful programs in Hockey East, is off to such a dismal start. The Wildcats are looking for their first win, as they bring a record of 0-4-1 into tonight’s home game against Union. New Hampshire can’t score goals (1.80 per game, last in the league) and can’t prevent them (4.80 allowed, second-worst). Special teams have been no bargain, either, with the team killing off 13 of 19 opposing power plays, a woeful 68.4 percent . . . There were a couple of major upsets last weekend with Holy Cross taking down Boston University, 5-4, at Agganis Arena and UConn knocking off UMass-Lowell in overtime, 3-2, at Conway Arena in Nashua, N.H.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.