Cutter Gauthier, Will Smith will lead BC against Michigan Tech in NCAA Tournament

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

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

These two NHL first-round draft picks and Hober Baker Award finalists will power the BC attack when the No. 1 ranked and top-seeded Eagles (31-5-1) engage the Huskies of Michigan Tech (19-14-6) in the NCAA Providence Regional on Friday afternoon (2) at Amica Mutual Pavilion.

The Eagles have been rated No. 1 in the nation since the end of January and enter the tournament riding a 12-game win streak.

No. 2 seed Wisconsin (26-11-2) will confront reigning national champion and No. 3 seed Quinnipiac (26-9-2) in the second semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Boston College has won five national championships, with four in this century. Wisconsin leads the field with six national titles, Michigan Tech has three and Quinnipiac won its first in 2023.

“We are extremely excited to be back here and the guys have worked hard all season just to get to this point,” said BC second-year head coach Greg Brown, the Hockey East Coach of the Year. “There’s been a lot of consistency from the players and that is really important if you are going to get a high seed.”

Gauthier was selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round and fifth overall in the 2022 NHL Draft. Gauthier leads the nation with 35 goals with 24 assists as the middle man on the Eagles’ first line with left wing Oscar Jellvik and right wing Andre Gasseau.

“If you look at all the things he is really good at, finishing plays is probably the best,” said Brown. “He has a pro release essentially and every shot is big time.

“A lot of guys have big shots but not everybody can score. He gets himself into positions and he gets to spots where he can score. You see guys that shoot it through the boards in practice and not find the net in games, but Cutter has that ability.”

Gauthier is the first BC forward to reach 30 goals since Hobey Baker winner Johnny Gaudreau crossed the plateau in 2014. Gauthier needs three goals to tie the BC single-season record of 38 set by David Emma in 1990. Brown and Emma were teammates so Brown was able to compare and contrast the two snipers.

“They were different kind of players but both have great ability to score and both were extremely driven,” said Brown. “They never lost focus at playing as well as they could all the time.

“If we were up 4-1 it didn’t matter, Dave went over the boards the next shift as hard as he possibly could and Cutter has that same mentality. I would say their mental makeup is very similar but their styles of play were different.

“Cutter is bigger and more of a one-time shooter threat. Dave had a great shot but he could score in different ways. Mentally they both were extremely driven.”

Smith leads the nation in scoring with 67 points and first in Hockey East with 44 assists to go along with his 23 goals. Smith became the first Hockey East freshman to score a hat trick in the conference title game with four goals and an assist in BC’s 6-2 victory over No. 2 Boston University last Saturday at the TD Garden.

“Will has an extremely high skill level but he sees space, his awareness of space and where space is going to open up is outstanding and not a lot of guys have that,” said Brown. “It is a special skill of his.

“He can slow plays down when he needs to and he can speed plays up. He has a great gift for passing at exactly the right speed. If he needs to send a missile to a guy he does or if he needs or lay one into an area where a guy can skate to it, he is great at that, too.”

Smith was the San Jose Sharks’ first-round pick and fourth overall in the 2023 while right wing Gabe Perreault and left wing Ryan Leonard, his linemates, were also first-rounders that year. Leonard was selected eighth overall by the Washington Capitals and Perreault went to the New York Rangers with the 23rd pick. The trio have combined for 68 goals, 110 assists and 178 points.

“It has been a pretty good year so far,” said Smith. “We just try and read off each other every night and we are all close friends off the ice. We are around each other every day all day.”

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