HAMDEN, Conn. — Making the jump from junior hockey to the college level is hard. Making that jump halfway through a season? It’s almost unheard of.
Unless you’re Cam Boudreau.
“It’s definitely a big jump,” said Boudreau, 19, of Salem. “They hold you really accountable here. You got to work hard every day, there’s nothing off. Especially with such a great team, you have to do everything as best you can.”
Boudreau, a 6-foot-1-inch 185-pound defenseman, last month left the Boston Junior Bruins of the National Collegiate Development Conference and enrolled at Quinnipiac early to join the hockey team.
“With the way the year was going, we have a chance to maybe do something here,” Quinnipiac associate head coach Bill Riga said. “Something where we wanted to add some depth and some size on the back end. So if anything happened with an injury like it did, we’re not going to lose anything for a long period of time.”
Quinnipiac currently is ranked No. 5 in the nation and holds an 18-5-1 overall record, 7-4-1 in the ECAC. The Bobcats are tied for fifth place with Dartmouth but only two points out of first place. So with something special brewing in Hamden, Conn., Boudreau is joining a team that has the spotlight on them.
It was expected that he would be a part of the team in 2019-2020, but given some needs on defense, Quinnipiac offered Boudreau the option to come early.
“(Boudreau) wanted to do it,” Riga said. “It’s not like we made him. We just threw it out there and said we had the availability and asked if he was interested and he was. So it just seemed to fit for everybody.”
It was an opportunity that Boudreau jumped at. He had already spent a season with the Junior Bruins, putting up 12 points in 42 games in 2017-2018 and 14 points this season. Prior to juniors, he played at the Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Mass.
So, going into this fall already having that experience at the NCDC level under his belt, Boudreau said he felt it was best for him to make the move up earlier than expected.
“I didn’t really want to stick around juniors anymore,” Boudreau said. “I wanted to get going and I thought I was ready and definitely stepped in and I’m trying to do the most that I can.”
Since Dec. 29, Boudreau has played seven games for the Bobcats with no points and one minor penalty. It wasn’t your normal rink he debuted at. Boudreau’s first time hitting the ice at the college level was at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, N.Y., the former and now occasional home of the New York Islanders.
“That was awesome, I wasn’t expecting that from my first game here,” Boudreau said. “I thought we were going to Colgate until like the night before and so that was a good surprise and a lot of fun.”
With a new team and a new level comes some jitters. According to Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold, a Bedford, N.H., native, it was evident in the first game that Boudreau still has some adjusting to do.
“I thought he was good, he’s a really good hockey player,” Pecknold said after Boudreau’s debut against Colgate. “I thought he was a little nervous. He’s a little overwhelmed right now trying to learn everything in nine days ... We play a unique style and it’s a lot for him coming from juniors to here.
“But he’s doing great,” said Pecknold. “He’s a good kid, he’s worked hard and I thought he was pretty good for his first collegiate game.”
The transition from juniors to the collegiate level is a tough one. The play is faster, the players are stronger, and, especially in the ECAC, there is a lot more physicality to the game.
However, Riga said Boudreau has adjusted well to the switch.
“He steps right in as one of our better skaters on our team, so he plays how we play. He plays fast and he moves the legs and he can make up for his mistakes with his skating, if he does make one.”
Riga said Boudreau still has a lot of learning to do about the Quinnipiac systems and doesn’t expect him to see any power play time this year. But Riga also said that it’s something that will be an opportunity for Boudreau down the line after this season, and Boudreau agreed.
“As confidence builds and I get more playing time, and I kind of figure out how all the things work ... I’ll definitely be able to start killing penalties, hop on the power play, make some things happen,” Boudreau said.
For now, Boudreau’s arrival in Hamden couldn’t have come at a better time. Quinnipiac is getting ready for the final five weeks of conference play and is looking to make a run at an ECAC title and make some noise in the NCAA tournament.
“It’s been a positive addition,” Riga said. “It was the right timing, to fill him in. If he hadn’t come in, we would be trying to find other ways to fill that hole .. and what’s attractive (for him) is joining a team that’s having a successful year, I think that was big for him.”