Local forward Zak Smith is committing to Dalhousie University to play hockey at the U SPORTS level.
Smith spent this season in the SJHL with the Flin Flon Bombers and made it all the way to Game 7 of the league finals before falling short. The Austin native says everything came to fruition after that game.
"We were at our team award ceremony and my coach came up to me and said Dalhousie is interested in you. My first response was 'Well, where's Dalhousie?' He said downtown Halifax, and while I had never been before that immediately went near the top of my list," Smith explains. " They're building a new rink, they just built a brand new training facility, and I have family out in Halifax. So, it just seemed like the right place at the right time."
Smith ended his season with nearly a point per game in both the regular season and playoffs, with 48 in 50 season games and 17 in 18 postseason contests. Eleven of his playoff points came in the final seven-game series with Estevan. While he isn't sure how big of a part that last series played in Dalhousie being interested in him, Smith says it definitely didn't hurt.
With this next step on the horizon, the forward says being a young guy in the locker room once again has him very intrigued.
"Well, I'm back to being a rookie. Every day I'm going to be playing against 25-year-olds, so I'm going to feel like I'm 16 again," Smith continues. "I just have to go in with confidence and play my style of hockey. I just have to keep that confidence level high and not stretch out my game too much. I'm going to play the way that got me here."
Despite losing in the SJHL Finals, Smith and the Bombers were still awarded an opportunity at the Centennial Cup Tournament, with Estevan already having a spot as the host team. Against the best Junior A teams in the nation, Smith continued to impress, with five assists in five games, while winning three of those contests.
The forward says he learned a lot from that experience.
"Playing against the top teams from all over Canada, I can look back on that season knowing we were one of the top teams in the nation. That gives me so much confidence now going to Dalhousie," says Smith. "I've played on a big stage before and played in big moments. I think that experience will be key for me as it's something that not a lot of guys have."
Smith notes he's never been to Halifax and adds the furthest east he's ever gone is only Kenora. Despite the unfamiliarity, the local is looking forward to the potential culture shock.