April 18, 2013 by conteconfidential
The Gaudreau brothers logged countless hours at Hollydell Ice Arena over the years.
It was there that Johnny, a Hobey Baker finalist this year, began to develop his uncannily creative game. And it was there that Matty, mainly from squaring off against his older brother, began to learn the defensive side of hockey.
“He’d try to do fancy moves, and I’d keep my eyes on his chest and his body and make sure he wouldn’t go around me,” Matty said. “Whenever I have to play defense, cover for one of my players or take on a one-on-one, I know how to block it because of playing one-on-one with him.”
Next year, Johnny and Matty will have the chance to play against each other on a regular basis again. In practice, that is. For the first time since they led Gloucester Catholic to the New Jersey state finals in 2010, the brothers will be on the same team.
Matty is expected to come to Boston College in the fall. Having the chance to play with his younger brother was part of the reason why Johnny turned down a contract with the Calgary Flames to return to BC for his junior year.
“It’s nice playing with a friend, but playing with your brother is a whole other experience,” Matty said. “You know each other more than anyone else.”
The younger Gaudreau, who prefers Matty to Matt and Matthew, just wrapped up his final season in the USHL as his Omaha Lancers finished outside of a playoff spot. In 106 career games over the course of two seasons, he had 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists).
This year, he suffered a shoulder injury early in the preseason. He was in and out of the lineup for most of the first half and tallied only one goal and six assists in 21 games.
After the Christmas break, with his shoulder finally starting to feel better, he totaled six goals and five assists in 33 games to finish the year with 18 points.
(photo credit: Robert J. Meyer)
“I don’t like making excuses,” Matty said. “I don’t feel like I’ve had the best year this year putting points up. It was hard for me with the shoulder. After Christmas I picked it up a lot.”
Meanwhile, he watched Johnny win a gold medal with Team USA at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship and earn numerous individual awards and accolades for his play at BC.
While he’ll admit that the pressure on him has mounted because of his older brother’s success, Matty is the first to say that, even though they’re brothers, they’re two different players with two different playing styles.
“He probably has more skill than me, but when it comes to defense I feel I’m a little better than him,” Matty said.
While Matty has flashes of individual brilliance, he’s more of a dependable two-way player than a high-scoring superstar. Even though he stands 5-foot-8 and weighs only 135 pounds, he isn’t afraid to take a hit or play the body.
“I like doing it all really,” Matty said.
And one of his favorite types of plays is something that you’ll rarely, if ever, see Johnny attempt.
“I’ve watched John play a couple times, but I haven’t really seen him go out and try and block a shot,” Matty said, with a chuckle. “It’s fun when a team has a shot from the blue line, and I just go down and block a shot. It feels good once you get back to the bench and you hear your team cheering for you.”
Matty understands that being a Gaudreau doesn’t guarantee a spot in a stacked BC lineup next year.
“I talked to Coach York about it, and he said I’m going to have to prove myself,” Matty said.
Like Johnny, Matty needs to add weight to his slight frame. While he had a good laugh over the fact that Johnny hasn’t exactly filled out just yet, he knows that the situation is different for him.
“He doesn’t really use his weight, but I’m different than him,” Matty said. “I like to take the hits and everything, and, when you’re taking hits from a 210-pound player and you’re 135, it’s much easier to hurt yourself. So the weight helps you out a lot.”
Making the task more challenging is that Matty’s class is very deep, especially at forward. Ryan Fitzgerald, Austin Cangelosi, Adam Gilmour and Chris Calnan could all earn a spot in the lineup right away.
“It’s going to be good playing with them but getting into the lineup and trying to beat them out for a spot is going to be pretty hard,” Matty said. “But I’m willing to do it.”
Not long ago, people had doubts about Johnny. He was a relative unknown, just an undersized kid from Carneys Point, N.J. who scored goals, made plays, but wasn’t seen as a guarantee to make the jump to college hockey and beyond.
Johnny has proven people wrong so far, and now it’s Matty’s turn. But he’ll do it as Matty, not by trying to be Johnny.
“John’s a great hockey player, and I’m proud of him for that,” Matty said. “Hearing ‘you’re not as good as your brother’ out on the ice, I like to say neither are you because he’s a one-of-a-kind hockey player. I just have to get motivated whenever anyone says that to me.”
By Jen Dobias