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Beaudoin helping Aeros’ cause… and his own

beaudoin09c_200.jpgWhile goaltender Anton Khudobin has garnered much of the praise and many of the headlines as the unheralded, where-did-this-guy-come-from hero of Houston’s run to the Western Conference finals, there’s another Aeros player that fits the bill quite well.

Matt Beaudoin.

Matt who?

Matt Beaudoin. Mathieu, actually. He’s a native of Rock Forest, Que., a town just outside of Sherbrooke. He’s 25, but just a second-year pro after playing four seasons at Ohio State, where his teammates included Dave Steckel, Nate Guenin, Rod Pelley, Tyson Strachan and Sean Collins.

And he may have finally found himself a home in Houston.

Since finishing his senior season with the Buckeyes in 2007, Beaudoin has played for nine different pro teams, including six in the AHL, looking to make his mark. His performance during the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs has certainly gotten himself noticed, as he ranks second in the league with seven goals and 16 points as the Aeros find themselves playing for the conference championship after upsets of Peoria and Milwaukee.

Beaudoin has been teamed much of this postseason with center Corey Locke, a seasoned veteran of five AHL seasons and a Calder Cup champion with Hamilton two springs ago. Locke’s 11 goals and 20 points both lead the league, and he and Beaudoin have combined to spark the Aeros’ power play, which is clicking at 22.1 percent efficiency through 18 playoff games.

Beaudoin’s latest heroics came on Wednesday night, with Houston facing the daunting challenge of a 3-0 series deficit against the regular-season champions from Manitoba. His four-point night, including a game-tying goal with 6:26 left in regulation and the winner 2:01 into overtime, kept the Aeros’ season alive and set up a Game 5 back at Toyota Center on Friday.

beaudoin09d_200.jpg“He’s been a real nice addition to our power play, but tonight he also was really good five-on-five player,” Aeros head coach Kevin Constantine told the Houston Chronicle following Wednesday’s Game 4 win. “It’s good when you get both; tonight was his best game and that was really nice to see.”

After failing to latch on with a major junior program, Beaudoin made the decision to pursue a college education and was offered a scholarship to play at Ohio State. He was the Buckeyes’ team leader in goals (23) during his sophomore year and later was named an alternate captain. He was also a three-time scholar-athlete award winner and earned a degree in business finance.

Beaudoin spent most of his first professional season in the ECHL, finishing fourth in the league with 38 goals in 2007-08. But he had just 20 points (11g, 9a) in 55 AHL games prior to this postseason, having made stops in Iowa, Rochester, Hershey, San Antonio and Milwaukee before joining the Aeros on Jan. 6, 2009.

Beaudoin scored his first AHL goal at Quad City on Jan. 10, and his first AHL hat trick helped Houston to a 7-6 win at Iowa on Feb. 14, the third victory in a 14-4-0-0 run that would ultimately solidify the Aeros’ position in the West Division playoff race.

Nine days later, Beaudoin’s tryout contract – the eighth one he had signed in the AHL – was ripped up and he signed a standard contract with the Aeros. He was finally able to keep the suitcase unpacked for a while, and he was one step closer to the National Hockey League.

“Every time I’ve been turned down by something, I found something else to focus on, a new goal,” Beaudoin told the Columbus Dispatch in 2007. “I love hockey. I’ll play hockey the rest of my life if I can.”

Even if Houston’s championship dreams are snuffed out by Manitoba, the Aeros will have to consider the 2008-09 season a success. And even if Matt Beaudoin can’t lift his team into the Calder Cup Finals, he’s gone a long way towards earning a little job security somewhere next year.