Strong took the long way to get to Dartmouth

  • Dartmouth College forward Cam Strong fights off St. Lawrence defender Cade Gleekel during the ECAC teams' March 2, 2018, game at Thompson Arena. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley new photographs — Tris Wykes Valley News file — Tris Wykes

  • Dartmouth College forward Cam Strong waits for a faceoff during his team's March 4, 2018, game against St. Lawrence at Thompson Arena. Strong is the only NCAA Division I player from Montana this season. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley new photographs — Tris Wykes Valley News file — Tris Wykes

  • Dartmouth College forward Can Strong during a Jan. 9, 2019, practice at Thompson Arena. Strong and the Big Green host Princeton in the first round of the ECAC playoffs this weekend. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley new photographs — Tris Wykes —Tris Wykes

  • Dartmouth College hockey player Cam Strong speaks to his teammates before a game at Thompson Arena. Mark Washburn—Mark Washburn

  • Cam Strong

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/5/2020 11:16:09 PM
Modified: 3/5/2020 11:15:57 PM

HANOVER — Bob Gaudet’s favorite memory of Cam Strong isn’t related to the senior forward’s play. It harks back to an overtime loss at Union, when several Big Green skaters stepped through the rink’s nearby exit door seconds after surrendering the winning goal.

Hopping over the boards and then sprinting through the door himself was Strong. He returned in short fashion, joined by his previously departed teammates, all of them joining the postgame handshake line.

“Those guys were just dejected and not thinking,” said Gaudet, who later received a complimentary letter about the episode from a Union fan. “But it epitomizes who Cam is and what college hockey is about.”

That Strong is even a part of college hockey is a somewhat unlikely tale. The only Montanan in NCAA Division I his entire Dartmouth career, the Billings native didn’t benefit from the usual youth hockey infrastructure that produces recruits.

“There aren’t many rinks in the state, and I realized when I was 12 or so that I was going to have to leave,” said Strong, whose 13-12-4 team hosts Princeton this weekend in an ECAC best-of-three first-round playoff series. “Some kids in Montana think that’s all there is and don’t really stretch themselves.”

Strong left at 14, jumping from the lowest to the highest level of Bantam youth play with a team in Arizona. The squad played in tournaments across the country and narrowly missed a chance to go to the nationals. By that time, Billings had gotten higher-level teams, so Strong moved back home. By 17, however, he was playing in Colorado, where he enrolled at his third high school to finish his studies.

“You have to make sacrifices,” Strong said. “But it opened my eyes that there was better hockey out there.”

After two years in Colorado, Strong moved on to the Topeka (Kan.) Roadrunners, a Tier II junior team for which he earned most valuable player honors his second year. It was during his time in the Midwest that Strong researched all 60 colleges and universities that offer NCAA Division I men’s hockey and targeted the Ivy League.

“I was looking at everything a school could offer and whether they had engineering,” said Strong, who’s now a standout student and one of two Dartmouth men’s hockey players majoring in that field. “I’m considering pro hockey but also getting a master’s degree.”

Gaudet has no doubt Strong will thrive in either pursuit, or both.

“He’s one of my all-time favorites because you can trust him with anything and he does everything right,” the coach said. “He’s honest and polished, and even when he showed up as a freshman, he seemed to be a mature adult. He hasn’t taken a practice drill off in four years.”

Strong has six goals and two assists while playing in every game this winter, but his worth shows up in more subtle fashion. Blocked shots, smart and aggressive forechecking and the discipline to take shifts no longer than 50 seconds are his hallmarks. He’s a defensive standout and positionally aware, meaning he’s often involved when things go right and rarely when they break down.

Several weeks ago and following a tough home loss, Gaudet was preparing to leave Thompson Arena at midnight when a staff member mentioned that Strong had only recently left the locker room. Queried the next day, Strong said disappointment in himself had led him to remain there by himself for roughly an hour, reflecting on how to be a better team leader.

“It’s always about the team with Cam,” Gaudet said. “Always.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.




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