Brendan Gaunce hoped to find his way up to the professional level after inking a one-year, two-way deal with the Boston Bruins on July 1. After all, Vancouver’s 2012 first-round selection only notched six goals and nine assists in 117 career NHL games.
Searching for a team that can help him find the scoring touch he had in the Ontario Hockey League, where he notched 236 career points (103 goals 133 assists) in 258 games from 2010-2014 — mostly with Belleville Bulls but also with Erie Otters — a well-established Bruins franchise provided him with a chance, albeit at the AHL level.
Gaunce, sporting a 7-6-13 stat line and a plus-11 rating in 18 games, has appeared to find that elusive scoring touch in his new home. His season highlights include four multi-point games, including a two-goal outing against Bridgeport on Nov. 22, and an overtime winner at Hershey back on Oct. 6.
Gaunce enters the weekend tied for third on the team in goals along with Peter Cehlarik and Ryan Fitzgerald. His offensive output has lifted the P-Bruins into a second-place spot in the Atlantic Division.
“It’s a fresh start for me and you’re coming to an organization that wins,” Gaunce said of his time in Providence. “I wanted to go to an organization that wins at both the AHL and NHL level and come in and learn a few things as well as bring what I can bring. So far, I think I’ve done that.”
A fresh start indeed, and certainly an upgrade over his former organization.
Vancouver has missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons and hasn’t advanced past the first round since their Stanley Cup Final loss to Boston in 2011. Utica, Vancouver’s AHL affiliate that Gaunce spent parts of five seasons with, have only made the playoffs once in the last three years and haven’t reached the third round since their 2015 Calder Cup Final defeat.
Now three months into his first season with the Bruins’ organization, Gaunce has become a key cog for the P-Bruins success. The veteran also provides another important trait to the young Providence squad — leadership.
With significant experience at both the NHL and AHL levels, Gaunce certainly doesn’t mind providing guidance to the younger guys who are still adjusting the professional game.
“I think there’s a lot of things that younger guys look to veterans. One is work ethic. One is showing the younger players the ups and downs of professional hockey,” Gaunce said. “Just sticking with guys and bringing them into the group.”
Just before Thanksgiving, a banged-up Bruins squad recognized Gaunce’s leadership and retooled offensive game. Gaunce had an eventful Boston debut on Nov. 27 after tallying the primary assist on Zdeno Chara’s game-winner in the team’s 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators.
Gaunce picked up right where he left off in his return to Providence, tallying a goal and two assists in his last four AHL games.
“[Gaunce] has been good,” said P-Bruins head coach Jay Leach. “He’s certainly able to make a play, he has a knack for making at the right. He’s capable of playing any position for us so he’s a real solid contributor and he’s a leader.”
With a fresh start in the Bruins organization, Brendan Gaunce is slowly but surely redeveloping that scoring touch Vancouver had hoped he had when they drafted him. Through his frustrating tenure with the Canucks, Gaunce found the right system, to reinvigorate his professional hockey career.
“Adjusting to a new system was a bit different. But, for me — as I’m sure with most people — it’s [about] confidence in your abilities and confidence in making plays at the right time,” Gaunce said. “It’s something that I don’t want to say I struggled with over the past but I didn’t trust myself and I think I’ve done that this year and it’s showing offensively.”
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