Cutter Gauthier and Will Smith lead BC vs. Michigan Tech in NCAA Tournament

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Boston College sophomore center Cutter Gauthier is a finisher who can make plays.

Lexington freshman center Will Smith is a puck-handling playmaker who can find the back of the net.

These two NHL first-round draft picks and Hover Baker Award finalists are the No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Eagles (31-5-1) and the Michigan Tech Huskies (19-14-6). It will strengthen BC’s attack when playing against. NCAA Providence Regional Tournament (2) Friday afternoon at Amica Mutual Pavilion.

The Eagles have been rated No. 1 in the nation since late January and enter the tournament on a 12-game winning streak.

Second-seeded University of Wisconsin (26-11-2) will face reigning national champion and third-seeded Quinnipiac (26-9-2) in the second semifinal at 5:30 p.m. They have won the championship five times, four of them this century. The University of Wisconsin leads the field with six national titles, Michigan Tech has won three and Quinnipiac University won its first championship in 2023.

“We’re very excited to be back here. Our players have worked hard all season to get to this point,” said Hockey East’s second-year head coach at B.C. said Greg Brown, who won the Coach of the Year award. “The players have been very consistent and that’s very important to get a higher seed.”

Gauthier was selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round, fifth overall, in the 2022 NHL Draft. Gauthier leads the nation with 35 goals and 24 assists as the Eagles’ first-line midfielder along with left winger Oscar Jervik and right winger Andre Gasseau.

“If you think about all the things he’s really good at, finishing plays are probably the best,” Brown said. “He basically has a pro release and every shot is big time.

“A lot of guys have big shots, but not everyone can score. He gets into position and gets to spots where he can score. He might shoot over the boards in practice, but in a game he can’t score. We often see players who swing, and Cutter has that ability.”

Gauthier became the first BC forward to reach 30 goals since Hobey Baker winner Johnny Gaudreau crossed the plateau in 2014. Gauthier needs three more goals to match the BC single-season record of 38 goals set by David Emma in 1990. Since Brown and Emma were teammates, it was possible to compare and contrast the two snipers.

“They were different types of players, but both were good scorers and very motivated,” Brown said. “They never lost focus and always played their best.

“It didn’t matter that we were 4-1. Dave went all out over the boards the next shift. Cutter had the same mentality. I think their mental structures are very similar. However, the style of play was different.

“Cutter is bigger and more of a one-shot threat. Dave made a great shot, but he could have scored in other ways. Mentally, they were both really pushed.”

Smith led the nation in scoring with 67 points and ranked first in the Hockey East with 23 points and 44 assists. Smith became the first Hockey East freshman to record a hat trick with four goals and one assist in a conference title game in BC’s 6-2 victory over No. 2 Boston College last Saturday at TD Garden. .

“Will has a very high skill level, but he recognizes space and his awareness of space and where space opens up is outstanding and not many players have that.” said Brown. “That’s his specialty.

“He can slow down the play or speed up the play if he needs to. He has a great talent for passing at just the right speed. He needs to send missiles to the players which he does. If there is, or if you need to put missiles in areas where players can skate, he’s good at that too.”

Smith is the San Jose Sharks’ first-round pick and fourth overall pick in 2023, and his linemates, right wing Gabe Perreault and left wing Ryan Leonard, were also first-round picks that year. He was a player. Leonard was selected 8th overall by the Washington Capitals, and Perreault was selected 23rd overall by the New York Rangers. The trio combined for 68 goals, 110 assists, and 178 points.

“It’s been a very good year so far,” Smith said. “We just try to read each other every night and we’re all best friends on the ice. We’re all around each other all day every day.”

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