Thursday, December 5, 2013

Traverse City's Smith earns call to NAHL's Wichita Falls Wildcats

Press Release sent to the World of Junior Hockey

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Josh Smith is the second Traverse City Hounds’ player who is learning that effort equals opportunity.

Smith, a 19-year-old from Alaska, has earned a tryout with the Wichita Falls (Tex.) Wildcats of the North American Hockey League, following fellow forward Garrison Sanipass, who started the year with the Hounds and is now with the NAHL’s Johnstown Tomahawks.

For Smith, the chance to move up has been a work in progress.

“(Traverse City head coach) Scott Gardiner and I have been talking to (Wildcats’ head scout) Tom Kelly for a while,” said Smith. “Just about a week ago, they invited me to come down for a tryout. I'm going there and I need to make this team. I'm going to work hard and practice physical. Then I'll put extra hours in and show the coach that I want the spot more than anyone. It's going to be a battle, but I can do it.”

“Josh is a kid that when we signed him, we felt he wouldn’t be with us the whole year,” Gardiner said. “I know he’ll go to Wichita Falls and leave it all on the ice. I hope we don’t get him back.”

Hounds’ GM Randy Montrose is also ecstatic at the promotion of Smith.

“I’ve said this a million times, but this is why we do what we do – to see kids get rewarded for putting in the hard work and extra effort,” said Montrose. “I couldn’t be happier for Josh and wish him all the best.”

In 11 games with Traverse City this season, Smith has averaged a point per game with five goals and six assists for 11 points.

“Coaches Scott, Randy, (Keith) Gillis, Jacek (Wilk) and (Marty) Passino have all helped me increase my confidence and developed me into a 6-foot-6 centerman,” Smith said. “I owe it all to these guys, but even more to (Hounds’ director of hockey operations) Lester Griffin. You will not meet a better guy in the hockey world than Lester. He brought me to the Hounds and he's like a second dad to me.”

Smith will be in Wichita Falls this weekend and will see how things shake out from there.

“All I know about the Wildcats is that their head coach, Paul Baxter, teaches a very nitty-gritty style of play,” said Smith. “They told me that perimeter players don't survive here. I'll be in Wichita Falls for a couple of days for tryouts. My goal is to make the team, stay there for the rest of the season and then continue to be an impact player and win the national championship.”

Smith and Sanipass join Bloomington Jr. Blaze goalie Cam Lerner as players that have progressed to higher levels of junior hockey from the MWJHL this season as Lerner joined the Surrey Eagles of the British Columbia Hockey League two weeks ago.

 (Nathan can be reached at nathanfournier@mainehockeyjournal.com)

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