BRUNSWICK – Owen (Kit) Smith, a defenseman for the NCAA tournament bound Bowdoin College hockey team, didn’t have to travel far to continue his hockey and academic careers.

In fact, Smith didn’t have to travel at all. He grew up down the street from the college and went to Brunswick High.

“I applied to other New England Small College Conference schools, but after talking to Coach Terry Meagher and the lacrosse coach, Tom McCabe, I was convinced Bowdoin was the place for me,” said Smith, a junior.

“I’m glad I chose Bowdoin. The professors are great and the student body is friendly.”

And the hockey? Well, that’s been great too. The Polar Bears (19-6-1) are heading to the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time since the 2001-02 season. They gained an at-large berth in the 11-team tournament and will play at Oswego (N.Y.) State (25-2-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday. Oswego State, which won the 2007 national title, is 16-0 at home this season.

The selection committee gave the Polar Bears a bye from tonight’s play-in games, but the team knows it faces a stiff test.

“We’re all going to have to play our best games of the season,” said Smith, a physical player at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds.

That’s about 25 more pounds than he weighed as a senior at Brunswick, when he won the Travis Roy Award as the state’s top high school hockey player and was a standout lacrosse player.

Smith is also a two-sport athlete in college.

Unlike a lot of college hockey players, who after high school attend a year of prep school or play Junior A hockey, Smith went directly to Bowdoin.

“It was an adjustment,” said Smith. “I was a freshman playing against other freshmen who were a year or two older. I didn’t see any ice time until the end of my freshman year.”

Smith, a junior who has been a starter for two seasons, said this year’s team has a strong core of seniors.

The team also has a talented junior class, led by its leading scorer, Kyle Shearer-Hardy, and its leading goal scorer, Jeff Fanning.

Smith has top leadership skills, said Meagher, who is in his 27th season at Bowdoin.

“Kit is a member of our team’s leadership council,” said Meagher. “He’s our representative from the junior class. The council meets every Thursday to discuss team preparations for the next game.

“Being a Travis Roy Award winner, we knew Kit could play. He played a lot of minutes in high school. He faced an adjustment at this level. His game had to become more refined, which meant being more consistent in practice and playing at 100 percent each shift on the ice.”

Smith has become that type of player, said Meagher, while mentioning another quality.

“Kit is one of the most competitive kids I’ve coached,” he said. “I love to see Maine kids do well. Kit is a great role model. Kit and Leland Fidler I would say are our two most improved players this season.”

The beautiful new Watson Arena was rocking during the NESCAC tournament. The Polar Bears beat Colby in the quarterfinals and Hamilton in the semifinals before losing 3-2 to Middlebury in the final Saturday. The seats were filled and with standing room, there were an estimated 2,300 in the arena named for a legendary coach, Sid Watson.

“It was a great atmosphere,” said Smith. who has four goals and six assists. “It’s the loudest this place had been yet.”

This was the Polar Bears’ first full season in Watson Arena. Playing before a lot of Brunswick fans who watched him in high school is rewarding but somewhat surreal, said Smith, an economics and math major.

“It’s a little different playing for a school in your hometown. Plus, my father works in the IT department at Bowdoin,” he said.

“I see how many fans from Brunswick are at our games and it makes you think of how great it will be to win. But being from Brunswick doesn’t mean I want to win anymore than my teammates. We’re a team,” he said.

And his nickname?

“My father is Owen Smith. My mother wanted to name me Kristopher. My aunt suggested ‘Kit’ for a nickname and it stuck. I guess my parents liked Western names. I’m Kit for Kit Carson. My younger brother and sister are Cody for Buffalo Bill Cody and Susanna for the song ‘Oh Susanna.’

“I was hoping I would lose my nickname in college, but too many people know me as Kit,” said Smith.

 

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: [email protected]