Superior player took long route to play hockey at UMDTim Smith is the first defenseman from Superior to play regularly in Minnesota Duluth’s Division I era, and he’s enjoying the moment.
Tim Smith is the first defenseman from Superior to play regularly in Minnesota Duluth’s Division I era, and he’s enjoying the moment.
The first-year Bulldog has been in 11 games, including the last three and seven of the last 11, entering today’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s series at Minnesota State-Mankato.
After stops in Owatonna, Minn., in the North American Hockey League, Providence College and Indianapolis in the United States Hockey League, he’s found a home.
“For a while I had lost some of my love of the game. I wasn’t having fun, which is the whole point of being in sports,” Smith said this week. “I ended up taking a step backward so I could take a step forward.”
After a season in Owatonna, Smith was recruited by Providence College coach Tim Army. Yet after playing in 17 games through the first half of 2009-10 as a freshman, Smith chose to return to the North American Hockey League team. In 2010-11, as an older first-year player with Indianapolis, he flourished, playing in all 60
Former Cloquet High School goalie Dutch Barrett, a scout for the Indianapolis Ice, monitored Smith and passed his name on to UMD assistant coach Derek Plante, an old friend. Plante made a scouting trip and UMD made a scholarship offer.
“Tim is an experienced player, a reliable, steady player and that’s what we needed,” said coach Scott Sandelin, who lost five defensemen from UMD’s 2010-11 team. “He takes care of the defensive end of the rink.”
Smith, 21, played just four of UMD’s first 19 games this season, biding his time and waiting for an opportunity. The 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore is paired today with freshman Chris Casto.
“I don’t regret for one minute leaving Providence because it was the right thing for me to do. But I knew no matter where I went, I’d have to work hard and show I belonged,” said Smith, a two-time Wisconsin all-state high school defenseman for Superior. “Staying as close to home was important and being with this team has been great. In the last two seasons I have a new appreciation for the game.”
Five other Superior natives are listed among UMD’s hockey alumni in the school’s media guide — goalies Rob Anderson (1999-2003) and Bill Halbrehder (1961-65), forwards Tom Nelson (1998-2002) and John Santori (1979-83) and defenseman Mike Gotelaere (1981-82).
Another former Providence College player, forward Aaron Jamnick, is also in his first year with UMD, practicing with the team while sitting out a transfer season. After a three-sport career at Hibbing High School, he played in 65 games in two years with the Friars, but left after Army was fired as coach (and replaced by Union’s Nate Leman). Jamnick received his release from Providence in July and contacted UMD.
“It was a huge jump from high school hockey to Division I hockey and I wasn’t really ready for that,” said Jamnick. “But after two seasons (at Providence) and a year here, being pushed at practiced by some great players, I know I’ve improved.”
Jamnick, 21, who played a half-season with Smith at Providence, was on the 2009 News Tribune All-Area hockey team and had 159 career points at Hibbing.