Ferris’ Smith determined to have best season

Junior Ferris goalie Darren Smith had 37 saves in a 3-2 win over Western Michigan on Saturday. (Ferris State photo)

BIG RAPIDS — Ferris State hockey coach Bob Daniels is likely to be making several tough decisions this season on whether to start sophomore Justin Kapelmaster or junior Darren Smith in net.

But based on last week’s performances in the season opener against Western Michigan, Smith might rank slightly as No. 1, at least for now.

Western was 4-of-6 on the power play on Friday at Kalamazoo when the Bulldogs lost 6-1 to Western with Kapelmaster in net. It was Smith’s turn on Saturday and the Barrie, Ontario, native had perhaps one of the best games in his career.

Smith had 37 saves and was instrumental in holding the Broncos to 1-of-11 on the power play,

“Whenever you have a really good penalty kill performance, you have to look at your best penalty killer and that’s generally your goalie,” Smith said. “I thought Darren Smith did a heckuva job in the net tonight. We did a good job of getting rebounds. It was a terrific job by Darren.”

Smith played in 21 games for Ferris State last season and finished with a save percentage of .902 and goals against average of 2.96 last season. He had the WCHA’s highest save percentage from Nov. 23-March 2 at .940, and marked a league-best 1.75 goals against average in that time

“I just wanted to be confident coming in and get off to a good start,” he said after Saturday’s game. “We had a little bit of a struggle coming into the beginning of last year. I wanted to come in and give the guys a chance to win. That’s all you can do. I was happy with the outcome.”

Ferris is home Friday and Saturday against Northern Michigan.

Smith led Ferris State to a NCAA Regional Final contest, as well as the first WCHA Tournament Championship in school history in 2016 as a freshman. He was College Hockey News’ best rookie goaltender in the nation award for 2015-16.

He was more than ready for his first game on Saturday.

“We had a lot of penalties but the guys did a great job of blocking shots,” Smith said. “When a goal goes in, you have to put it behind you and worry about the next shot.”

Ferris has started out 1-1.

“On Friday’s game, we knew we had a lot more in the tank than that,” Smith said. “That was not our best performance by any means. The guys knew what they were supposed to do tonight and came out and played 60 minutes of Bulldog hockey. The guys did a helluva job in front of me and made my job easier. 37 shots seems like a lot.

“There were a couple of power plays when they hardly got a shot on net. The biggest thing was blocking shots. They did a lot tonight.”

Smith was part of the inaugural roster for the United States Hockey League’s Madison Capitals during the 2014-15 season

“This year, I’m looking to be more consistent,” he said. “Last year, I had my good games. This year, I want to be more confident, be more consistent every night and try to give my team a chance to win.”

The Bulldogs struggled to get that first win last year, which made victory in the second game very significant.

“The first win is the toughest win,” Smith said. “Once you get into a rhythm, things become easier.”

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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