Johnny Gaudreau capped off his homecoming in style.
The Carney’s Point (N.J.) native and Gloucester Catholic High School graduate assisted on the game-winning goal in overtime to help carry the Calgary Flames past the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2, on Tuesday night.
It put an exclamation point on what was a three-day whirlwind on his first return home since making the Flames roster out of training camp.
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“It was a great game for me and I had a blast playing here,” Gaudreau said. “To help set up the game-winning goal here in Philly with a ton of people watching me was pretty exciting for me.”
The ton of people was estimated in the thousands. Friends, former classmates and family braved the elements to attend the game.
When Gaudreau, who bought a suite that included 30-35 tickets, leapt over the bench for his first shift, his fans – decked out in Flames jerseys or t-shirts with Gaudreau’s No. 13 on the back – roared.
“Yeah, it was pretty neat,” said Gaudreau, who won the Hobey Baker Award as the country’s best college player last year with Boston College. “I knew I had a lot of support here tonight and just hearing that in the first shift was pretty exciting for me.”
Since the Flames didn’t have another after playing at the Islanders on Friday until facing the Flyers, Gaudreau was able to spend three full days in South Jersey. He ate home-cooked meals by his mom and grandmother and slept in his own bed.
Then, on Monday afternoon he had his jersey retired by Gloucester Catholic.
“It was a special day for me,” Gaudreau said. “To get your jersey retired is something that doesn’t happen every day.”
The rookie, who played in the All-Star game and will likely be one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy given to the league’s top rookie, remained humble despite all of the extra attention.
“I didn’t even know he was from the area the way he acted,” Flames goalie Karri Ramo said. “He handled it really well.”
Even right up until the last second of the game.
“It was just as special as I thought it would be,” Gaudreau said. “Growing up I came to a ton of Flyers games and getting to play here at Wells Fargo and against the Flyers and (Claude) Giroux, who I have been a big fan of, was pretty exciting as well. It was just a great night all together.”