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Fun on the Job: Canaan Native Continues Hockey Education in Texas

  • Canaan, N.H., native Gavin Bayreuther plays for the AHL's Texas Stars in an April 2017 game. (Andy Nietupski photograph)

  • Canaan, N.H., native Gavin Bayreuther plays for the AHL's Texas Stars in an March 2017 game. (John Saraya photograph)

  • CEDAR PARK, TX - April 14th - Texas Stars take on the San Antonio Rampage at the HEB Center.

  • CEDAR PARK, TX - April 14th - Texas Stars take on the San Antonio Rampage at the HEB Center.

  • CEDAR PARK, TX - April 14th - Texas Stars take on the San Antonio Rampage at the HEB Center.

  • www.ttlsports.com—Andy NietupskiCanaan, N.H., native Gavin Bayreuther plays for the AHL's Texas Stars in a 2018 game. (Andy Nietupski photograph)

  • www.ttlsports.com—Andy NietupskiCanaan, N.H., native Gavin Bayreuther plays for the AHL's Texas Stars in a 2018 game. (Andy Nietupski photograph)

  • Andy Nietupski photograpgGavin Bayreuther, of Canaan, is a Cardigan Mountain School graduate who played his college hockey at St. Lawrence University before signing with the AHL’s Texas Stars.



Valley News Sports Editor
Friday, April 27, 2018

Gavin Bayreuther has learned a lot since he last skated regularly in the Upper Valley. For instance, one need not be a vegetarian to stay healthy. And Texas isn’t a bad place to play hockey.

Most importantly, however, the game can still be fun even if it’s a job.

Winning helps, and Bayreuther has done enough of it in his rookie season to still be on the ice. The Canaan native and Cardigan Mountain School graduate has enjoyed his first campaign with the AHL’s Texas Stars, who booked passage to the postseason’s second round on Tuesday night after a double-overtime win on Sunday in which Bayreuther made a major contribution.

“It’s been good; I’ve learned a ton,” Bayreuther said this week in a phone interview from southern California, where the Stars were engaged in a best-of-five series with the Ontario Reign. “It’s been an up-and-down year, for sure. I try to soak it all in. It’s gone by fast.”

Bayreuther, who turns 24 on May 12, signed with the NHL’s Dallas Stars shortly after finishing up last year at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York. Undrafted but on scouts’ radar throughout his collegiate career, Bayreuther got in 15 games with the Austin-based AHL Stars last winter and has suited up for 75 of the team’s 80 regular-season and playoff games to date.

He’s been adapting his offensive-minded play to a different level of the game, with some success. It’s nothing that surprises one of his former SLU coaches.

“He opened eyes quickly,” said former St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel, who left the Saints after Bayreuther’s junior year to take the reins at Massachusetts. “When you’re a defenseman and can score 10-plus goals in a season, he jumped off the page at you. … Defensively, he had a long way to go, but all credit to him; he rounded out his game without sacrificing his offense.

“Not many have that competence to score goals, and he has that. He goes into games not hoping to score but knowing he’s going to score.”

Although not chosen when eligible for the NHL entry draft, Bayreuther maintained a high profile during a four-year SLU career. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound left-handed shot won a share of the ECAC rookie of the year award as a freshman, earned second-team All-American status as a senior and ranked third in the nation in points per game by a blueliner prior to going pro.

“What we found out quickly when he got to St. Lawrence was he was that very rare defenseman that knows how to score goals,” Carvel said. “He didn’t score around the net; he would score from the blue line and from 20 or 30 feet out. In my time coaching in the college ranks, I’ve not coached a player like him with that ability to score.”

Bayreuther believes a broken wrist he sustained at the end of his freshman year with the Saints played a role in being bypassed in the draft. Once with Texas, he never felt he had to prove himself just because no one held his rights.

“It was the best thing that could have happened,” Bayreuther said. “It keeps you honest with yourself. You never get complacent. You try to stay blue-collar. It’s worked out well so far. You see NHL free agents all the time making impressions, guys who end up winning Stanley Cups.”

Hand in hand with that attitude is the knowledge that Bayreuther has to care for himself off the ice as much as he does on the ice in game situations. He learned good habits at St. Lawrence that have carried over to what is now his profession.

“When I was younger, I thought a diet would be eating salad every day, but there’s a lot more to it than that,” he said. “Over time, I’ve learned a ton about a lot of stuff. Eating right is huge. You can’t be going into a game with a heavy stomach.”

It also hasn’t hurt having fellow SLU graduate Mike McKenna as a teammate this season. A free agent himself, McKenna is 11 years Bayreuther’s senior, but the two have bonded both as alumni and as a goaltender-defenseman unit.

“He’s an unbelievable role model,” Bayreuther said of the netminder, who spent time with Dallas as an injury sub for goalie Ben Bishop during the NHL campaign. “I sit next to him in the locker room. I can talk to him all day about St. Lawrence stories or hockey stories. The best thing about him is he keeps things light. Going into double overtime (on Sunday), he was laughing, jolly, cracking jokes. That’s very important; you can’t grip your stick too tight. Have fun. You’re still playing hockey.”

Bayreuther, who scored a goal in his first pro game last winter, finished his first full regular season ranked third in scoring among AHL rookie defensemen (7-25—32), a sign that his offensive instincts remain sharp. His stretch pass set up Samuel Laberge’s double-overtime goal in Sunday’s 5-4 game 3 win that gave Texas a two-games-to-one edge in the Ontario series. McKenna stopped all 44 shots he faced in a relief appearance; he knocked aside another 47 in Tuesday’s 1-0 clincher.

With at least one more Calder Cup playoff series on his plate, Bayreuther isn’t looking too far into his future. He spent last summer in Boston, and may do it again this summer. His family — parents Jessica and John still work at Cardigan — recently purchased a lake house in Maine “in the middle of nowhere, with no cell service,” Bayreuther said. “That would help in keeping my mind off the game.”

Carvel believes Bayreuther was in the ideal situation for his rookie season, making the gradual transition from college hockey to pro hockey without the need to worry about earning an NHL roster spot. Perhaps those thoughts can commence once Bayreuther’s current tasks end.

“I’m hoping to bring the playoffs as far as we can; that can only help myself with my resume,” Bayreuther said. “At the same time, once hockey ends here — I hope it’s in mid-June — it’ll be a big summer for me. I’ll have to start all over, get into training camp and show Dallas management the type of player I can be.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.