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Wexford native Andrew Gaus close to home for Penguins developmental camp

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Yale's Andrew Gaus (11), a Wexford native, skates with the puck ahead of Arizona State's Jordan Masters during the second period of an NCAA college hockey game at the Desert Hockey Classic tournament, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. Yale defeated Arizona State 4-0.

Among the 38 players taking part in the Penguins developmental camp this week were young men from as far away as Latvia, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia — and even North Dakota.

And while Pittsburgh International Airport figures to be busy Saturday boarding all of these young hockey players onto planes that might require 3-4 connections to get them back home, one of the camp attendees practically could walk back to the house he grew up in.

“My family lived five minutes down the road from here,” Andrew Gaus said proudly after a practice session Thursday. “I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. My dad put me on the ice when I was 21⁄2 years old; I was pushing a chair over at Bladerunners Warrendale.”

This week, Gaus was a short (if traffic-filled) drive from there up Route 19 at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry. A Wexford native who’s entering his senior year at Yale, Gaus was at the Penguins development camp as a tryout.

A 6-foot, 185-pound right wing, Gaus was the only camp attendee born and raised in the Pittsburgh area. He’s come home for each of the three summers since he began college — even though his immediate family moved to Florida last year. Gaus is staying at the Hampton Township home of his grandfather.

“I have been training upstairs (in the Lemieux Complex) for three years now, so to be on the other side of it in (the Penguins’) locker room is a really a cool experience,” said Gaus, who played for the Junior Penguins and Pittsburgh Hornets programs growing up. “A cool opportunity for a Pittsburgh kid to come to this camp.

“I come back here every summer just because the facility is so amazing that I want to take advantage of it. And we don’t have a ton of ice up (near Yale), so we can’t really stay up there. But I love the city, love Pittsburgh and I’ve got a lot of friends here, so I am pretty excited to come back here in the summers. When I got the opportunity to come to this camp, it was a no- brainer.”

Coming off a season in which he had the overtime goal to end a first-round ECAC playoff series at home against Dartmouth, any high expectations Gaus had for 2017-18 quickly were dampened when he suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery and limited him to four games.

With a six-month recovery period, the development camp was Gaus’ first “live” hockey practice since November. Friday evening’s scrimmage was his first game action since then.

Gaus’ training partners at the Lemieux complex over recent summers include a who’s who of Pittsburgh-area natives playing in the NHL: the Tampa Bay Lightning’s J.T. Miller, the Chiago Blackhawks’ Brandon Saad, the Florida Panthers’ Vincent Trocheck and the Anaheim Ducks’ John Gibson among them.

“We have a lot of good players from this area,” Gaus said, “so it was nice to build a little bit of a relationship with those guys. This is just such an amazing facility. We’re pretty lucky. And it will help in developing even more guys for the future.”

Gaus is hoping professional hockey is in his future. But not, of course, before he graduates with a Yale degree in political science. A former assistant captain for the United States Hockey League’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, Gaus has his sights set on leading Yale to an NCAA championship.

The season after he committed, the Bulldogs won the national title. The Frozen Four that year (2013) was in Pittsburgh. Gaus was in attendance at what then was known as Consol Energy Center.

It was a short drive from his Wexford home — but not as short as his commute this week.

“You look at that stuff, for sure,” Penguins development coach Jarrod Skalde said of having a local at camp. “It’s the not the bottom line, but it’s always nice to have someone local or from the area, so it’s great. It’s always a good thing to have somebody like that.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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