By David Willis
---- — DERRY — When J.D. Dudek stepped onto the Boston College hockey team’s home ice a few years ago, he did so wearing a jersey of his home-state University of New Hampshire — during an on-ice contest between periods.
“I got picked out of the stands to represent UNH,” Dudek said with a laugh. “It was one of those contests and I won $100.”
When Dudek next takes the ice at the Conte Forum, he will be wearing a Boston College jersey, and he will be doing so as a member of college hockey’s most dominant program.
Last weekend, the former Pinkerton Academy standout forward officially committed to play his college hockey for the Eagles, the reigning NCAA champions and winners of three of the last five national titles.
“It is really a dream come true,” said Dudek, who never played football. “A lot of schools were calling, and I always had BC in the back of my mind. I have wanted to play hockey for Boston College as long as I can remember, and they finally did show interest.”
Dudek’s announcement came just as he prepared to leave for Kimball Union Academy, where he will play his junior season after a stellar summer with the Team USA National Development Camp and two outstanding season for Pinkerton Academy.
“If you had asked me a year ago if (the recruiting process) would go this fast I would have said no way,” said Dudek’s father, college football legend Joe Dudek. “Now I am learning this works quickly. It has been a surreal experience, and I can’t describe how excited we are.”
Dudek first drew the serious attention of the Boston College coaches in July during the National Development Camp in Rochester, N.Y.
“I had spoken to some assistants at the Development Camp,” said Dudek. “Then (BC) head coach Jerry York said he would watch me at the Five Nations Tournament, and we started talking more seriously after that.”
Dudek was selected to play for Team USA in the Under-17 Five Nations Tournament in August — which also included teams from Slovakia, Germany, Switzerland and the host Czech Republic.
The 16-year-old proved to be the star of the tourney, scoring the game-tying and game-winning goals in the gold medal game victory over the Czechs. He also added a highlight-reel score against Slovakia.
“Putting on the Team USA jersey was an unbelievable honor,” he said. “I had been over to Europe before, but this was the first time I really felt comfortable playing that style of hockey.”
The 5-11, 170-pound Dudek had already received offers from Hockey East schools UNH and University of Maine, but when Boston College officially offered, he made his choice.
“I talked with my parents and a family advisor,” he said. “I knew I loved BC. They have three championships in the last few years. BC was always the college I had dreamed of going to, and I made the decision.
“It was such a great run (to the national title) for BC last season, and I remember watching and it didn’t seem like a reality I could play with those guys. They were so much bigger. So it is amazing to be here.”
Unlike a lot of recruits, he won’t spend five years in high school or four and a year in Juniors.
Dudek will now play two seasons at Kimball Union, after two seasons starring for Pinkerton. Last season, Dudek was an Eagle-Tribune All-Star after scoring 20 goals, finishing second in the area in points (53) and helping lead Pinkerton to its second state title in program history. As a freshman, he finished with 14 goals and 39 points.
“I knew last year was going to be my last at Pinkerton,” he said, “So me and (Eagle-Tribune 2012 MVP Zach) Sanford set the goal to win the title. We weren’t leaving without the ring, and we got it. But I am excited to play at Kimball Union.”
Dudek vs. Dudek
For 16 years, Boston College-bound J.D. Dudek has been known as the son of Joe Dudek, aka the man dubbed “The Thinking Fan’s vote for the Heisman” on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1985 during his record-setting career at Plymouth State.
But now, it may be J.D. that has an advantage in the battle of the Dudeks.
“I think he has a lot of bragging rights now,” said Joe. “I never had a Division 1 scholarship offer, and I never won a state title in high school. He has definitely exceeded where I was in high school.
“I was just a guy that was getting some interest from Division 3 schools. This high-profile recruiting is very different.”
Joe, of course, was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997 after setting the NCAA record with 30 100-yard rushing games, and later played briefly in the NFL for the Denver Broncos. But that didn’t stop a recent hockey recruiting guide from taking a swipe at his career.
“There was a great quote on one of those recruiting sites,” said Joe with a chuckle. “It said, ‘J.D. Dudek. Father Joe had a great career at Plymouth State. One thing we can be assured of is J.D. won’t be playing at Plymouth State.’ I laughed.”
David Willis is a sportswriter/videographer for The Eagle-Tribune. You can see his video profiles at eagletribunetribune.com/sports.