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Cardigan alumnus in playoff bubble

  • Dallas Stars' Gavin Bayreuther (44) keeps Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) from getting a shot on goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018. The Penguins won 5-1. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

  • Dallas Stars defenseman Gavin Bayreuther in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, in Denver. The Avalanche won 3-2. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/14/2020 9:22:15 PM
Modified: 9/14/2020 9:22:12 PM

Cardigan Mountain School graduate? Check. One-time Canaan resident? Check. Undrafted after four years of college hockey? First-time Stanley Cup playoff participant? Check and check.

Former Dartmouth College defenseman Ben Lovejoy followed that route during his first season with the Pittsburgh Penguins 11 years ago. Fellow CMS graduate and ex-St. Lawrence blueliner Gavin Bayreuther is repeating the route nearly to the letter, only with the Dallas Stars. And he’s frequently reminded how he’s travelling a familiar path.

“(It) does all the time,” Bayreuther admitted over the weekend. “(I’m) very close with him, and he’s helped me a lot.”

As Lovejoy was with the Pens, Bayreuther is playing the role of a Black Ace with the Stars, who were a win away from making the Stanley Cup Finals entering Monday night. The term has gained common usage in the NHL over the years, representing players brought up for the playoffs to help with depth at practice and insurance against injuries.

Bayreuther hasn’t skated for Dallas since the 2018-19 season, spending his time with its Austin-based AHL affiliate instead. He does, however, occasionally get to join warmups prior to a playoff game, as happened when the Stars opened the Western Conference finals against the Vegas Golden Knights last week in Edmonton, Alberta.

“Obviously, it’s such a wild world right now with everything that’s going on,” Bayreuther said in a Saturday phone interview from his Edmonton hotel room, hours before the Stars’ 2-1 win that gave them a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. “When I first came back to Dallas for training camp, I was under the impression that COVID could play a big part in this and everyone needs to be ready. Someone could pull out; three guys could come down with COVID and be out X days. We all have to be ready, and it’s all going pretty smoothly. I’m kind of just there, ready to go.”

The scariest part of being in the NHL bubble was simply reaching it.

Bayreuther lost his Texas Stars AHL season when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, but Dallas made it clear he was in the plans should the NHL resume play. Bayreuther returned the house he and his fiancée, Erin Higgins, own in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, outside of Portland, and converted his garage into a workout space. As promised, Dallas called him back in late June.

It came with a catch.

“The end of June, around the 20th, the GM calls me and tells me I’m coming — he said, ‘We want you here by the 28th’ — and you have to drive,” Bayreuther said. “I was all shaken up about it, so I ended up driving in a rental car with my dad. Due to all of the quarantine rules, if I flew I would have had to quarantine for 14 days. I got there at the end of June, and I’ve been in a hotel ever since.”

Bayreuther admitted bubble life can be stale, but the Stars and the NHL have done what they can to help. The teams’ hotel, the JW Marriott, is connected to Rogers Place and “about a 3-minute walk to the locker room.” Occasional field trips to run around Commonwealth Stadium or hit a local driving range are welcome. He has also enjoyed being able to watch other teams play games on nights when the Stars have been idle.

Bayreuther believes the NHL will try to start the 2020-21 season after the holidays; where he’ll be is anyone’s guess. The one-year deal he signed with the Stars before the season ends with the team’s Stanley Cup run, and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Because the future is uncertain, Bayreuther appreciates being a part of the present.

“I might not be playing, but it’s pretty cool in this bubble, and I will tell my kids, grandkids and everyone about how cool and odd this moment was in our world and how we’re doing this for the greater good of the sport,” he said. “It’s putting smiles on peoples’ faces that have had hard times.”

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




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