Juniors Journal: Gaudreau leads USA to glory
by Shawn Hutcheon/Contributor
Perhaps more than any other sport, hockey has provided our favorite players with nicknames that will never be forgotten. Of course, the nickname “Mr. Hockey” belongs to Gordie Howe, as it should, but there is a new player with a similar moniker who’s one of the sport’s biggest stars thus far in 2013.
Johnny Gaudreau (Carney’s Point, N.J.) solidified his nickname of “Johnny Hockey” with his stellar performance at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia. He scored seven goals in the span of three games for the Americans, leading the way for his club to not only play for the gold medal but to win the tournament and become world champions.
Gaudreau, who was a driving force in Boston College’s march to the 2012 NCAA championship, added two assists during the WJC for a total of nine points. He finished as the tournament’s fifth-leading scorer. He also led Team USA in shots on goal with 25. When it was all said and done, the 19-year-old forward was named to the World Junior Championships All-Star team.
Of course, Johnny Hockey would not have enjoyed the success that he did in Russia without the experience, skill and determined play of linemate J.T. Miller.
The Rangers 2011 first-round pick showed the world the skating and puck-handling skills that made him a first round selection. He ended the WJC as the ninth leading scorer of all participants with two goals and seven assists to equal Gaudreau’s nine points. The Connecticut Whale (AHL) forward dished the puck deftly to Gaudreau and Jimmy Vesey continuously and set up numerous scoring chances against the Canadians in the semifinals.
Blake Pietila, who is a draftee of the New Jersey Devils, chipped in with two assists in seven contests. The speedy forward, who plays for Michigan Tech University, registered eleven shots on goal and was a plus-5. His forechecking and playmaking skills were essential to his club’s victory over Sweden in the gold medal match.
Another player with New York ties who brought home the gold was Union College defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. The Flyers’ 2012 draftee was the quarterback on the USA power play throughout the Under-20 tournament. His passing, puck handling and skating were perfectly suited for the international game on the larger (200 feet by 100 feet) sheet of ice.
Gostisbehere contributed one goal and one assist for two points in six WJC contests. He led the club in penalty minutes with twenty-five, however fifteen of those penalty minutes came in one game as the blueliner was assessed a five-minute major penalty along with a game misconduct for slashing a player in a tilt against Slovakia. Gostisbehere was suspended for the quarter final match versus the Czech Republic. He returned for the semifinal against Canada and, of course, the final game against Sweden.
Opponents could not find a way to beat Gostisbehere one-on-one and routinely lost battles for loose pucks along the boards. His play in his defensive zone was unparalleled throughout the World Junior Championships.
Without these players in the American lineup, the outcome may have been very different. Gaudreau led the club with his speed and goal scoring. Miller led with his experience, speed and defensive awareness in all three zones. Piatila was a masterful forechecker who won battles for pucks and created scoring opportunities for his linemates and Gostisbehere was one of the top defenders in the entire tournament. He contributed with strong play all over the ice. All four players were instrumental in securing the gold medal and becoming the 2013 World Junior Champions.
1) Jersey Hitmen (26-5-0-0-0) - The Hitmen enjoy a ten point lead in the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s overall standings. They added two more victories to their win column this week over the Rochester Jr. Stars (5-1) and the Philadelphia Revolution (5-1) in league play. Sandwiched between those tilts, Jersey met the Atlantic Junior Hockey League’s New York Bobcats at the EJHL Winter Showcase and picked up another win (5-2). This weekend, Jersey will battle for pucks with New England’s number two ranked club, the Valley Jr. Warriors in a weekend series at home.
2) New York Bobcats (16-11-0-1) - The Bobcats went to the EJHL Showcase and took on the iron of the EJHL and the EJ South. Unfortunately, New York dropped decisions to the Boston Jr. Bruins (4-1), Jersey Hitmen (5-2) and Atlanta Knights (3-2). New York will return to Atlantic Junior Hockey League action Thursday at the New Jersey Rockets
before hosting the Washington Jr. Nationals for two games during the weekend.
3) New York Apple Core (13-14-0-2-0) - NYAC made the trip north to Massachusetts for the EJHL Showcase where they played twice and went home with victories over the Philadelphia Revolution (4-0) and the AJHL’s Walpole Express (3-1). This weekend, Apple Core will face off against the Springfield Jr. Pics on the road in Massachusetts.
4) New Jersey Rockets (11-13-3-1) - NJR has struggled throughout most of the season but that may be changing. The Rockets faced three strong opponents at the EJHL Showcase and accounted themselves fairly well with one tie with the EJHL’s Springfield Jr. Pics (3-3), followed by a one goal loss to the EJ’s Boston Bandits (4-3). New Jersey left Massachusetts after a second loss on the weekend to the Florida Eels (4-3) but the Rockets appear to have turned the corner with their “never say die” attitude. This road will not get easier this week as NJR faces off against the New York Bobcats at home on Thursday then hit the road again for tilts versus the Boston Jr. Rangers and the Northern Cyclones.
5) Rochester Jr. Stars (13-13-0-3-0) - The Stars took part in the EJHL Showcase but had a rough go of it. Rochester lost to the Bay State Breakers (3-2), Jersey Hitmen (5-1) and the AJHL’s Philadelphia Jr. Flyers (4-3). Next up for the Jr. Stars are the Boston Bandits in a two game series this weekend in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.
6) New Jersey Titans (11-17-1-0) - NJT did not have any games scheduled for the past weekend. This week, the Titans will take on the Northern Cyclones and the Boston Jr. Rangers in Tewksbury, Massachusetts on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.