Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Austin Smith Story on College Hockey News

With Austin Smith looking to help his Colgate Raiders be on the Big Surprise Teams in the entire NCAA & a possible Hobey Baker Award Contender this season. The Coppell Native is looking to end his College Career with a bang before he turns pro with his ultimate goal of playing for the Dallas Stars in the near future.

One thing though that has eluded Austin Smith's College Hockey Career has been post-season success. During his Freshman & Sophomore Years, the Raiders went 1 and done in their 1st series. In 2009 after the Raiders finished 10th during the Regular Season, Quinnipiac in a series where the Best of 3 1st Round where every single game went to OT.

The 2010 Season was better after finishing 4th, they were able to earn a 1st Round Bye. However, it was more of the same as St. Lawrence beat them in 2 games in the ECAC Quarterfinals

Last year, the regular season turned out to be a nightmare as they were one of the worst teams in the entire NCAA at one point where the Raiders didn't even win a Conference Game until early February where the team won just 9 games overall in the Regular Season last year.

However when the ECAC Playoffs began, they pulled off upsets against RPI in the 1st Round & the top seeded Union College in the Quarterfinals before losing to Yale in the Conference Semifinals. The team knew that with the bad season, it was either the Conference Championship or bust to make the NCAA Tournament.

So far this season, he leads the entire NCAA in goals with 20 and is in a 3 way tie with Jack Connolly (Minnesota-Duluth) & Spencer Abbott (Maine) with 33 points right now. Smith's two way game has taken a huge step over the course of his NCAA Career where he transformed from his Travel Hockey & Junior Days with the Pentiction Vees, in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) that will help him a lot when he gets his Professional Career underway full time next season most likely.

After the BCHL Championship in 2008, they were looking to beat the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) Champion Camrose Kodiaks for the Pacific Region Championship & a spot in the RBC Cup (Canadian Jr. A National Championship) spot. They lost to the Kodiaks in 5 games who went on to lose in the RBC Cup Final to the Humboldt Broncos (SJHL) 1-0 in the Championship Game.

He was taken in the 5th Round of the 2007 NHL Draft by the Stars (128th Overall) and looks and is looking to be among one of the 1st Players from the Southwest to make the National Hockey League (NHL) and be the Dallas area's 1st ever born & Trained Player to make the Dallas Stars.

I like his chances of making the NHL as he has been able to work his way up the ranks and be willing to work hard and be able to make rapid improvements at every level. From Dallas Jesuit where he even played for their HS Team in the AT&T Metroplex HS Hockey League, then as a Senior he went to the Gunnery Prep School for his Senior Year where he got noticed by different NHL Teams to take him in the NHL Draft.

Barring a major collapse, he will most likely sign his NHL Entry Level Deal after his NCAA Season wraps up and will most likely begin his Pro Hockey Career with the Dallas Stars AHL Affiliate, the Texas Stars down in Austin to play the final part of the AHL Regular Season and playoffs if the Texas Stars make the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs in Mid-April.

He would like to finish his NCAA Career with a strong showing in the NCAA Tournament. One of the few things that has eluded him in his College Career. Also if he can continue his strong showing, they is a possibility that he could be a major contender for the Hobey Baker Award as well that will be awarded out on April 6. This is part of the NCAA Frozen Four Weekend that will take place from April 5-7 at the St. Pete Times Forum where the NCAA Hockey Frozen Four will be taking place this season.

Here's the Timeline for the 2012 Hobey Baker Award to determine the Finalist, and the winner this year.

You can vote in the Early Round here.

Hobey Baker Top Ten: March 15

Hobey Baker Final 3: March 29

Hobey Baker Award Announcement: April 6 (In Tampa, Florida)

Here's Colgate's remaining Regular Season Schedule, the entire 2nd half of the season is entirely within the ECAC Hockey Conference. Right now, the Raiders sit in 2nd Place in the Conference at 6-2-0 & 12-6-2 overall right now and will look to overtake Cornell who sit just 1 point ahead in the Conference Lead while looking hold off teams like Quinnipiac & Union as well.

Here's the remaining Regular Season Schedule for the Colgate Raiders, as well as the dates for the 2012 ECAC Hockey Tournament.

1/13: @ Princeton  6:00 PM

1/14: @ Quinnipiac  3:00 PM

1/20: VS. Harvard  6:00 PM

1/21: VS. Dartmouth  6:00 PM

1/27: @ Cornell  6:30 PM

1/28: VS. Cornell  6:00 PM

2/3: @ Union  6:00 PM

2/4: @ RPI  6:00 PM

2/10: VS. Yale  6:00 PM

2/11: VS. Brown  6:00 PM

2/17: @ St. Lawrence  6:00 PM

2/18: @ Clarkson  6:00 PM

2/24: VS. RPI  6:00 PM

2/25: VS. Union

ECAC Hockey Playoffs

1st Round: 3/2-4  Best of 3 @ Campus Sites

Quarterfinals: 3/9-11 Best of 3 @ Campus Sites

Semifinals & Finals: 3/16-17 @ Boardwalk Hall Arena in Atlantic City, N.J.

Here's the Story by Adam Wodon of College Hockey News

Last season could not have been any worse  for Colgate, or for Austin Smith. Picked to finish near the top of the ECAC, Colgate finished deal last, without a league win until February. Smith coming off two strong seasons, saw his goal totals plummet into single digits. A pair of series victories in the ECAC Tournament did a little to soften the blow, but not much.

As the old adage says, however. Sometimes it takes going a step back to go two steps forward. In Colgate's case, perhaps it's been three.

The Raiders are near the top of the ECAC This year, and Smith - as of the time of writing 0 was leading the nation in goal scoring. The pair's fortunes are Clarey intertwined.

"We didn't have much chemistry (last year)," Smith said. "This year, I have had two exceptional linemates. "We've clicked and bonded well." Hopefully we can replicate this and have an even better second half."

Those linemates are sophomore Chris Wagner ("We're best friends off the ice," Smith said.), and Joe Wilson, a freshman that ignites the other two.

"He's an unsung hero. He has so much energy," Smith said of Wilson, a sentiment his coach echoes.

"Joey is quiet, but he has a sponge," and I think he's enjoying the heck out of playing with those guys," Colgate Coach Don Vaughan said. "His acceleration - he can really skate. He'll hound pucks down and force turnovers, and then Chris gets it and feeds it to Austin.

Smith is also healthy for the first time in a few years. Two seasons ago, he realized he needed surgery  for a torn labrum in both hips, an injury that is becoming increasingly prevalent in hockey players (six Colgate Players alone have had surgery in the last four years). But he only took care of one, and played through last season knowing he'd need surgery to the other hip this past off season.

Smith chose to play through it last year instead of taking a medical red shirt.

"I didn't want to set myself back," Smith said, about forgoing the surgery. "I had a really good sophomore year and played through it. So I knew that it was possible to play through it. I couldn't really imagine sitting out. I'm looking forward to a pro career, and fortunately, knock on wood, it's been a really big senior year and that's what I was looking for. It's kind of a contract year."

The effects were sore hips, trouble squatting, and a sharp pain that would move to the groin area.

But Smith believes he's better for the adversity.

"Maybe I need that. I had that big step in the road," Smith said. "I was in pain most of the year and things weren't going well. I could've packed it in and had surgery. But I learned a lot. I learned focus and dedication and things that will really help me in my pro career."

But it wasn't just the injury. Smith had to adjust to new linemates, after having played with an All-American like David McIntyre in years past. Smith said, playing with a player like McIntyre, he was passing all the time, trying to set him up. Most of the time, those passes paid off.

But last year, those same passes, without McIntyre, weren't leading anyway. His troubles mirrored the team's.

Initially it was (the injury)," Vaughan said. "When your confidence starts to wane, it builds upon itself. Whereas, if he was healthy and got off to a better start... he was also a victim of what was going on collectively."

As a result, though, Smith finally learned what his coach has been preaching for years - shoot more. 

"I have a great shot, I know that, but something in my brain says, 'make that pass over two sticks'" Smith said.

"I learned I've got to get the puck to the net, take opportunities when you get them. This year I've scored when before I would have made the extra pass. More then anything, I've been determined and focused on that part of the game - in practice too, just every day, not just swiping one at the goalie and going through the motions. I'm trying to score."

Colgate now is moving up the polls and the ECAC Standings.

"Getting off to a good start was important," Vaughan said. "The guys will be better ... we wanted to be getting more aggressive, more north-south, and hound all areas of the rink. We did a lot of video work, going back to last year. We were reinforcing that game plan through the use of video. We wanted to show only the positive plays in our video sessions."

Smith might have a common name, but his path to college hockey is uncommon - through Dallas, Texas. On the other hand, it's becoming an increasingly popular avenue for athletes from that area. Much of the thanks for that has to come from the Dallas Stars, whose move there and success fostered an enormous upswing in hockey interest among local youth.

"It's completely what got me into hockey," Smith said. "Back then, there was 250 kids in the Metroplex (Dallas-Ft. Worth area) that played. Now there's 50,000 or more."

David McKee, a former Cornell Goaltender (2003-2006) and Hobey Baker Award finalist, was among the first from Texas to play College Hockey. McKee happens to have grown up on the same street as Smith.  Others that Smith grew up with, including Locke Jillson and Keir Ross, who both went to Cornell, similarly were going to play NCAA Hockey.

But it was his mom that Smith was inspired by the most.

"When I went to Colgate, I loved the campus," Smith said. "My mom influenced me, with the academics. She really wanted that aspect as well. She was probably as much of an influence as anything...  I had a good relationship with Vaughan early, and the team was good at the time."

To top it all off, the hometown Stars selected Smith in the NHL Draft. Smith said he'd spoken to the Islanders, Boston and a few other teams, but had no idea Dallas was going to select him.

"The joke is that they picked for a publicity stunt," Smith said. "But they said, 'We've got a lot of college prospects,' and they were interested. They keep a pretty close eye ... They seem genuinely interested. If I have a really good year, technically (I can be) a free agent, but I would love to play back home. That would be unbelievable.

"I've wondered about what if I went to Denver or another big school, but I'm going to get an incredible degree, I've played first or second line since my first year, logged 25 minutes (a game) and got better every day through a good coach. So you have to look at some of the intangibles."

Vaughan believes the sky is the limit for Smith the rest of the season.

"The mental part, keeping his emotions in check, even when things aren't going well. He getting better at it," Vaughan said.

No comments:

Post a Comment