Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Is Austin Smith the NCAA's Best Hockey Player

This is the Question that was posted yesterday by Jason Cohen at the Texas Monthly Daily Post, which is kind of like the Daily Newspaper portion of the Texas Monthly Magazine. Going into the final weekend of the ECAC Hockey Regular Season which includes games against RPI coming up on Friday Night where Smith had a 4 goal game the last time the two teams played back on February 4th in a 8-3 victory.

Saturday Night, the Raiders will be ending the regular season on Saturday Night against Conference Leading Union where they looking to show that they are NCAA Tournament worthy, even if they don't win the ECAC Championship on, March 17. Many NCAA Hockey Experts are thanking that the ECAC could be a single team conference in this year's tournament when the NCAA Hockey Tournament 1st Round Games will be announced on March 18 (the day after the Conference Championships wrap up).

Colgate's main goal this weekend is to hold on to a top 4 spot as the gap from 3rd Place Colgate to 8th Place St. Lawrence is 4 points. If the Raiders do hold on to a top 4 spot, not only would that get them a 1st Round Bye but would also guarantee themselves a home series during the Quarterfinals which take place from March 9-11. That would be a huge advantage for the Raiders as they not only look to win the Conference but also to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005. When they were in the NCAA Hockey Tournament in 2005, the Raiders lost, 6-5, to the WCHA's Colorado College Tigers.

However, his feature takes a look at his chances of possibly winning the Hobey Baker Award this year and compares to him to other major individual achievements like Robert Griffin III winning the Heisman Trophy as well as former Texas Longhorn Basketball Players T.J. Ford (2003) & Kevin Durant (2007) winning the Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Awards in College Basketball over the last decade.

Here's the Final Weekend of the Colgate Hockey Schedule, as well as the ECAC Playoffs Schedule.

2/24: VS. RPI  6:00 PM

2/25: VS. Union  6:00 PM

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

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

3/16-17: ECAC Championship Weekend (In Atlantic City, N.J.) 

By Jason Cohen of the Texas Monthly Daily Post

Baylor's Robert Griffin III brought the Heisman Trophy back to Texas in December. University of Texas hoops stars T.J. Ford & Kevin Durant have both won the Naismith College Player of the Year Award. And now a Dallas Native - and future Dallas Stars Player - just might win the biggest individual prize in college hockey: the Hobey Baker Award.

That's right: A hockey player. From Dallas. Named Austin.

Now it should be noted that Texas doesn't even have an NCAA College Program. And the state's two most famous NHL Players are NHL Hall of Fame defensemen Brian Letch, who was merely born in Corpus Christi, and Buffalo Sabres defensemen Tyler Myers, a 6'8" behemoth from Katy who spent a few years as a Houston Aeros Fan before moving with his family to Canada at the age of ten.

But we get to legitimately claim Austin Smith, the 23 year old senior at Colgate University. He learned the game in Texas, played all of his youth hockey around the metroplex (Hi Tim), as well as two years at Dallas Jesuit High, to finish his development, Smith spent two years at a Connecticut Prep School and one season in a Canadian Junior League before entering Colgate, a small private school in Hamilton, New York (which also produced Texas Brahmas Head Coach Dan Wildfong), in 2008.

By then, Smith was already good enough to be selected by his hometown team, the Dallas Stars, in the fifth round of the 2007 NHL Draft. Now he leads the country with 33 goals in 32 games - ten more goals then the next player behind him.

But will that be enough? Last week, Inside College Hockey, elevated Smith to the top of it's Hobey Tracker feature. He has sometimes led, but is currently running third, in Hobey Baker Fan Voting (which only counts for one percent of the awards final voting tally), behind Spencer Abbot of the University of Maine and Jack Connolly of the University of Minnesota-Duluth - players from two larger, more historic hockey programs that boast six past Hobey Winners and three National Championships between them.

In that sense, Smith is actually more of an underdog then RG3, who at least played in the Big 12. A closer comparison would be to Case Keenum of the University of Houston, who put up record setting numbers in a conference that was outside college football's power circle.

As Brian Sullivan of U.S. College Hockey Online (USCHO) Wrote:

[Smith] has to be considered - at this point - a no brainer for the Hobey Hat Trick [Editor's Note: i.e., one of the three finalist]. It makes me sad to consider that where he plays will likely work against him.

[Other Players] are considered - by many narrow minded eyes - the "real" contenders, because they play in Championship conferences: Hockey East & and the WCHA, in these cases. They play real competition, where areas ECAC Hockey is well, somehow, not.

And I say, that's baloney.

Sullivan goes on to highlight some of the Smith's best performances against teams from other conferences. He also dismisses the fact that Connolly and Abbot have more "points". (That is goals plus assists) then Smith, not only because goals are more important, but because it's easier to pile up assists, both in practice (If your the second to last guy to touch the puck before a goal is scored you get one, even if you went off your skate) and conspiracy theory: "Some rinks/teams/scorers have a reputation for handing out assists with unjustifiable exuberance, and there's no time like a Hobey race to inflate the states at every possible opportunity," Sullivan writes.

Below, Smith is interviewed for Colgate's Youtube Channel. Like many hockey players, he's both humble and milquetoast (but check out that sweet mustache):
Fan voting for the Hobey Baker Award continues through March 1. The Hobey Winner will be announced on April 6 during the Frozen Four Weekend in Tampa, Florida (Florida? There's Hockey in Florida?!).

1 comment:

  1. It is quite impressive that he managed to score 4 goals in one game. I have to admit that it is hard to believe.