DALLAS – It’s break time in college hockey and that may be the only way to keep Dallas Stars prospect Austin Smith off the score sheet right now. Smith, a Dallas native and senior at Colgate University, leads the nation with 18 goals and is tied for second with 28 points in 17 games played.
It’s been a big bounce back season for both Smith and the Colgate Raiders, who had a down season in 2010-11. But tough times can make you stronger, and that’s been the case for Smith and Colgate.
“It’s a ginormous turnaround from last year,” said Smith, who attended Monday night’s Dallas Stars-Anaheim Ducks game at American Airlines Center. “It was a tough season. We had a lot of adversity. I was coming off hip surgeries and I learned a lot.”
Smith, 23, felt he might have rushed back from hip surgeries last season, and it took a toll. He got off to a slow start and the team struggled as well. Smith ended the season with 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 41 games and the Raiders finished with an 11-28-3 season.
“At the end of the day, I learned how to play through it, which is important,” said Smith. “We had a good stretch run at the end of last year and learned a lot. I had a lot of adversity, which will help me later in my career. It’s helped me so far this year.”
Smith, a speedy, skilled forward, has registered points in 16 of 17 games this season and Colgate, currently 11-4-2 on the season, is ranked 11th nationally in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll and 12th by USCHO.com.
“I’ve been more determined every day, shooting the puck more and playing with a lot more confidence,” said Smith. “I’m finding a way to score goals and helping my team win, which is the ultimate goal. It’s been fun and hopefully we’ll make it into the tournament this year.”
While this is his final season of college hockey, Smith can’t resist thinking what is ahead next season. The fifth round pick (128th overall) in 2007 was the first player born and raised in the Dallas area to be selected in the NHL draft, and next season he’ll embark on his professional career with the Dallas Stars organization.
“It’s hard not to think about it, but I try to stay in the moment,” he said. “I try to stay focused, but obviously I am excited being a Texas kid coming back here, whether it is starting in Austin (with the Texas Stars) or making it here on the big stage at some point. I’m excited. I’ll have a good opportunity down there to work hard and eventually work my way up. The opportunity is going to be there. I just have to work hard and make the most of it.”
Stars prospects: Notes and Stats
Here are some notes and a statistical update on Dallas Stars prospects playing junior hockey, in Europe and in college.
*Most of the players in juniors, Europe and college are on a break for the next week or two. Prospects Jack Campbell (USA), Jamie Oleksiak (Canada), Patrik Nemeth (Sweden) and John Klingberg (Sweden) will begin play in the World Junior Championship on Monday.
*RW Matej Stransky (6th round/ 2011) has scored goals in five of his last six games for Saskatoon of the WHL. Stransky has 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists) in 34 games.
*RW Brett Ritchie (2nd round/2011) remains out for Sarnia (OHL) due to a hip injury.
Statistics for Dallas Stars prospects playing in juniors, college and Europe.