Province’s top high school hockey player still has something to prove


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Colson Smith has been the best player on the finest high school boys hockey team in the province all season long, but the 17-year-old centre still has something to prove.

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Colson Smith has been the best player on the finest high school boys hockey team in the province all season long, but the 17-year-old centre still has something to prove.

He wants a provincial title to cement his legacy.

“We were all shooting for the (city) championship final, which we got done,” says Smith, who has been voted the No. 1 player in Manitoba in a Free Press coaches’ poll.

“Obviously, I wanted to having a good year, building my play and then getting stronger in all areas. I felt like I’ve accomplished that, but there’s obviously this weekend coming up to kind of put the cherry on the cake.”

Smith’s No. 1-ranked Garden City Collegiate team has a pair of preliminary games at the AAAA provincial championship against the Dauphin Clippers and Steinbach Sabres on Friday at the hockey for all centre and the Fighting Gophers are expected to qualify for Monday’s AAAA provincial final.

Smith, whose MJHL rights are protected by the Winkler Flyers, led the Winnipeg High School Hockey League in scoring during the regular season with 53 points, including 20 goals, in 23 games.

He’s added four goals and 11 points in eight playoff games, helping Garden City edge the St. Paul’s Crusaders 2-1 in the best-of-three city final.

The Gophers are blessed with a number of talented offensive players.

Lucas Desousa, a centre who finished third in the poll, was second in league scoring with 49 points while blue-liner Nixon Carriere, ranked seventh by the coaches, was fourth in the league scoring derby with 39 points.

That high-end offensive production has allowed Garden City to build a gaudy 44-1-2 overall record in 2022-23.

“I just think his competitiveness is it’s unmatched at this level,” said Gophers head coach Dustin Hughes. “(Smith is) a two-way player. He’s very hard on the puck, very explosive and very smart. He can kill penalties and is really good on the power play.

“Lucas is more that dangerous sniper. He can put the puck in the net from almost anywhere on the ice.”

Smith, who’s currently playing on a line with Noah Banera and Tyler Nault, is accustomed to playing in all situations with a variety of linemates.

“(Smith and Desousa) are the two offensive drivers for our team and we need them to be this weekend as well,” said Hughes. “At times we have them together, at times we rotate them through our wingers and we play them together on the power play.

“It ultimately depends on who we’re playing, how things are going, how they’re playing and kind of what we need at that time.”

Smith and Desousa have been teammates since Grade 10.

“(Smith is) an elite playmaker,” said Desousa, whose 28 goals led the WHSHL. “I’ve never met someone who works as hard as him. It seems like whenever we play together, you’re just finding the puck (on your stick) and that’s something you always look for.”

Both players will be watched carefully when provincial tournament play gets underway.

“Every team’s here for a reason, right?” said Smith. “But St. Paul’s will be good and I’d say Steinbach is pretty underrated. They work hard, they get the forecheck going, which scares teams, but Westwood’s also up, there for sure.”

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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