Fantastic freshman brings offensive spark to ice hockey

Tyger Allen & Brett Johnson, Herald Reporters

Freshman Griffin Gagne parks himself in between the University of New Hampshire Wildcats goaltender and defense awaiting a shot from his teammate. The Wildcats contest the shot attempt and the puck slides flat toward the corner boards. Gagne spins away from his spot and chases the puck, then gains possession. He turns away from the net, completely free of the defender trying to stop him. He picks his head up and notices open ice between him and the goaltender.

Gagne kicks back his left leg and fires a shot, hitting the right-hand glove of the goalie. His shot was slowed down, but found a way to trickle through the pads of UNH’s Brendan Sullivan. The puck sat in between him and the red goal line for only a second before junior Jeremy Lawton poked it into the net, giving Gagne his 15th assist of the season.

Gagne is no stranger to the score sheet. His 15 assists put him in second on the team, but his 15 goals are enough to top the leaderboard of RWU. One reason why Gagne is only one of eight players to play in every game is that he produces for the Hawks.

The Bedford High School graduate from New Hampshire has always been a star on the ice. In his senior year as a Bulldog, Gagne was named the All-State Player of the Year and a member of the All-State First Team and Senior All-Star Team. More importantly, Gagne was part of the championship winning team that beat third-seeded Concord by a score of 7-0. Gagne tallied two goals of his own in the win.

“It was an adjustment the first couple games. Players are bigger, faster and stronger,” said Gagne. “After I got through that, it was smooth.”

“We had high expectations for him coming into the season,” senior captain David Fasano said. “First impression was a good guy — good attitude — but we’ll see what he can do on the ice.” 

Gagne credits his linemates for helping him transition from the play of high school to college hockey. On the ice, he has frequently been paired with freshman Nicholas Hart, the team’s third leading scorer, and Lawton, a junior captain.

His hard work and success hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates. Gagne, even as just a freshman, has become a leader on and off the ice.

“I would consider Griff a leader on the team. Put his scoring ability aside, Griff is always bringing out the best of his linemates and teammates and forcing them to elevate their game,” Fasano said. “He’s vocal in the locker room and is not afraid to step up and speak his mind.”

The Hawks have set a goal to get back to the spot they were last year, but change the outcome of the tournament. After winning three straight games in the Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association (NECHA), the team earned a spot in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) playoffs.

“Our goal is to win our conference [NECHA] championship and after that, get a bid to regionals,” said Gagne.

The Hawks sit in first place in their NECHA division and are looking to win again and advance past the first round of the ACHA playoffs, where they lost a season ago.

“I would expect Griff to continue his successful season as we move towards the playoffs. Hopefully he elevates his game to an even higher level,” Fasano said. “As far as the team, we are just going to keep pushing forward, we focus on one period at a time… I really like our team. The work ethic and determination that we have will always put us in a position to be successful.”

The talent that Gagne brings to the team is hard to match, which often attracts the eyes of other teams looking for more highly skilled players to join them. Players that show promise like he does often elect to pursue junior hockey; however, Gagne feels differently about it.

“I’ll stay here for four years. I like it here,” he said. “When I stepped on campus I knew this is where I wanted to be.”