A MAKESHIFT SIGN on an 8 1/2-by-11-inch computer printout greets you on the far right door of Hollydell Ice Arena in Sewell, N.J. It reads:
WELCOME TO THE HOME OF 'JOHNNY HOCKEY'
A certain buzz now surrounds this rink, where locals of all ages have laced up the skates since 1992. Everyone knows South Jersey's own John Gaudreau, the 19-year-old Boston College standout who starred in the recent world junior hockey championships.
Now, the kids walk around in their USA hockey jerseys. They all want to grow up to be like Gaudreau. Flyers forward Danny Briere, whose 14-year-old son Caelan plays at the rink, recently stopped by and told Gaudreau's father, Guy, to pass along his congratulations.
Gaudreau, from Carneys Point, N.J., seemingly wins everywhere he plays. When the U.S. team topped Sweden, 3-1, on Jan. 5 in Ufa, Russia, Gaudreau became the first player to win a Clark Cup in the United States Hockey League, an NCAA championship and a gold medal at the world juniors. His tournament-leading seven goals in seven games, highlighted by a hat trick in the quarterfinal win over the Czech Republic, have only increased the notoriety of the humble, budding star.
Gaudreau went on to play at Gloucester Catholic High, which his father coaches, until his senior year, when his talent took him to Iowa. Playing for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL, the premier prep league, he was coached by Jim Montgomery, who played parts of two seasons with the Flyers in the mid-'90s. Gaudreau earned rookie of the year honors en route to the first of his recent trio of titles.
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JAKE KAPLAN, For the Daily News