Sophomore sensation leading Lakers

Sophomore goalie Bridget Smith (right) has recorded a .918 save percentage on the season, as well as a 6-5-1 record and 2.16 goals allowed.

Hockey has been a part of sophomore Bridget Smith’s life since the age of three. After learning how to skate under the tutelage of her father and older brother, Smith worked hard to put herself in the position she is in today: starting goaltender of the Oswego State women’s ice hockey team. But Smith never thought she would become a goalie. After she started playing in different youth leagues at age five, she went five years before she was put in goal.

“I started playing in goal when I was 10,” Smith said. “When you were younger there was kind of a rotation where everyone got a chance to be goalie. After my first game, I came off the ice and said that I was never going to play goalie again; obviously that wasn’t the case. My old coach still kind of makes fun of me about that.”

As Smith gained more experience between the posts, she found herself playing a position that she loved. Smith decided to continue her hockey career in high school. As a native of Hamburg, N.Y., she and her parents chose to enroll Smith in a private school. Ultimately, they settled for Nichols High School, approximately 25 minutes away from her home.

“Nichols is a small, private school in Buffalo,” Smith said. “I didn’t know anything about it before we started looking at high school. My dad really wanted me to go there and I kind of just went a long with it. My parents gave me a choice but deep down I knew I was going to be going to Nichols.”

Smith went on to have a stellar four-year career at Nichols. She was a member of the school’s varsity team as a freshman and instantly became a huge part of the team. Once her role as a starter was cemented, Smith’s play in goal stood out and earned her recognition. In 2010, she was named team MVP and earned the 2010 Scholar Athlete All-Western New York award, her second time earning the award.

Despite her terrific career and outstanding performance in high school, Smith had not decided whether she would continue playing hockey after high school. She would make the decision during her junior year.

“I didn’t really look into it until my junior year of high school, which I think was too late,” Smith said. “I started a little late, which is why I took my year off and went up to Toronto and played.”

Smith knew she wanted to continue playing hockey, but her late decision resulted in her taking a year off. During her year off, Smith, who had the blessing of her parents, put off college and played in Canada for a year. Smith was recruited by the Mississauga Chiefs and was brought on board in 2010 after being cut from the team a year before.

“The coach scouted me from Nichols,” Smith said. “I actually got cut the year before I made the team so I was obviously disappointed, but he gave me another shot, and I came ready to play.”

Smith did not start in goal right away. An opportunity came, however, when the starting goalie succumbed to illness. Smith starred in goal, posting an 18-2 record in 21 games. She recorded 289 saves while only allowing 21 goals, good for a .932 save percentage. Smith also recorded four shutouts. Her performance caught the eye of many universities, including Oswego State.

“I spoke with the assistant coach on the phone for about 45 minutes and he expressed his interest and told me he would come out and watch some more games,” Smith said.

Smith set up a visit and was extremely impressed with what she saw.

“The arena really stood out to me,” Smith said. “I mean you have Division I and Division II schools who don’t have facilities like this, so that really helped me in making my decision. I stayed overnight, got to meet a few of the players, loved them, loved the campus and I just liked everything about it.”

Smith made her decision and committed to Oswego State. Everything began falling into place for her despite taking the year off. In fact, she credits her time away for putting her in the position she’s in today.

“It’s probably one of the best decisions I ever made in my life,” Smith said. “I had a blast that year. I met some of my best friends playing up there, loved the team, loved the coach, so it’s probably one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Smith entered her freshman year with a chip on her shoulder. She knew playing time would be tough to get, but she was confident she would be able to get her fair share. Smith appeared in 13 games, starting 12 of them. In those 13 games, she posted a 6-5-1 record to go along with a .918 save percentage (303 saves, 27 goals against) and three shutouts. She posted the best winning percentage amongst all Laker goalies last year, giving her the best chance to earn the starting job this year in her sophomore season.

This year, Smith has stepped up her play to another level. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, she has helped lead her team to a 4-4-1 record (4-2 ECAC W). She has started seven of the team’s nine games, posting a 4-2-1 record with .937 save percentage.

Smith’s performance has been recognized as she has been awarded ECAC West’s women’s goalie of the week award twice already this season. She won the award on Nov. 12 for her performance at home against SUNY Potsdam. She posted her first shutout of the season while recording 22 saves on Friday, Nov. 10, the first game of a weekend series against the Bears. She allowed two goals the following night in a loss against the Bears despite making 16 saves.

She also won the award the following week after guiding the Lakers to a weekend sweep of Neumann University. The Lakers won, 4-2, Friday night behind 19 saves from Smith and won again on Saturday in overtime. Smith saved 22 shots in the thriller, 11 of which came in the third period. Smith’s performance this year has unofficially given her the starting job, as she has started all but two games.

Smith knows that nothing is set in stone, so she intends to continue to make the most of her opportunity as the team heads into the second half of their season. She has worked hard to get to where she is today and she will not look back. As the goalie, Smith is the team’s last line of defense. This season, she is made that line a whole lot tougher to penetrate.

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