Jour­ney to QMJHL had its ups and downs for Small­wood

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - SPORTS - BY JEREMY FRASER The Cape Bre­ton Post [email protected]­post.com Twit­ter: @Cb­post_­jeremy

Finding full-time em­ploy­ment in the Que­bec Ma­jor Junior Hockey League can be a dif­fi­cult task. Just ask Ian Small­wood.

The Cape Bre­ton Scream­ing Ea­gles de­fence­man is in his sec­ond sea­son with the QMJHL team, but it wasn’t un­til his 18-year-old year that he found a spot in Syd­ney.

“I al­ways knew that I had the tal­ent to play at this level, it was just wait­ing for my time to get a spot,” said the St. John’s prod­uct, now 19. “It was just a mat­ter of tim­ing.”

Af­ter play­ing his mi­nor hockey ca­reer in the St. John’s Mi­nor Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion, Small­wood left New­found­land for the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Mid­get ‘AAA’ Hockey League.

Dur­ing the 2014-15 sea­son with the Hounds, Small­wood reg­is­tered four goals and 11 as­sists for 15 points in 36 games, a feat that didn’t go un­no­ticed by ma­jor junior teams back in the Mar­itimes.

In June 2015, Small­wood was drafted by the Saint John Sea Dogs in the ninth round, 159th over­all, in the QMJHL En­try Draft.

In­stead of re­turn­ing to Saskatchewan, Small­wood stayed in New Brunswick and played with the Saint John Vi­tos of the New Brunswick/prince Ed­ward Is­land Ma­jor Mid­get Hockey League. The Vi­tos staged the Telus Cup, Canada’s na­tional mid­get cham­pi­onship, that sea­son.

“I knew that if I went back to Notre Dame I wouldn’t get a lot of games with the Sea Dogs,” said Small­wood of his de­ci­sion to re­main in the port city.

“If they needed an af­fil­i­ate player, I wanted to be that first guy they called, so it couldn’t have been a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity for me with the Vi­tos.”

Small­wood went on to ap­pear in 31 games with the Vi­tos, scor­ing 20 goals, the ma­jor­ity com­ing on the power play. He also ap­peared in 11 games with the Sea Dogs that year.

The fol­low­ing sea­son, Small­wood would spend most of the year with the Wood­stock Slam­mers of the Mar­itime Junior Hockey League, ap­pear­ing in only nine QMJHL games.

Small­wood at­tended his third train­ing camp with the Sea Dogs in Au­gust 2017, but was cut and his ma­jor junior rights picked up by the Que­bec Rem­parts.

Again, Small­wood re­turned to junior ‘A’, play­ing 20 games be­tween the Slam­mers and South Shore Lum­ber­jacks, and saw his QMJHL right dealt again, this time to the Scream­ing Ea­gles for a ninth-round pick at the 2018 QMJHL En­try Draft.

It was the break he needed.

Small­wood was called up by the Scream­ing Ea­gles and suited up for 36 games last sea­son, record­ing two goals and 10 points.

He’s never looked back.

“I like it here… it’s a great hockey com­mu­nity,” said the 19-year-old Small­wood of Cape Bre­ton. “The coach­ing staff is awe­some, and they re­ally push us to get bet­ter ev­ery day.”

This sea­son, Small­wood has ap­peared in 19 games with Cape Bre­ton shar­ing time play­ing de­fense and most re­cently get­ting some ice time up front.

“We were short a cou­ple of bod­ies up front, and Marc-an­dré (Du­mont) called me be­fore one game and told me they had a spot up front if I wanted it,” said Small­wood.

“I told him I’d play wher­ever they needed me, and it’s caught on since.”

De­spite his up and down jour­ney to se­cure a spot on a QMJHL team, Small­wood said his fam­ily has al­ways shown him sup­port through the process.

“Both my par­ents have al­ways been sup­port­ive, and my brother has been there since I started play­ing hockey,” he said. “My mother and fa­ther fly over here and watch the odd game and my brother works in Saint John, so any time we play Monc­ton, Char­lot­te­town or Saint John, he’s there.”

With the Christ­mas break fast ap­proach­ing, Small­wood has high ex­pec­ta­tions for the Scream­ing Ea­gles head­ing into the sec­ond half of the sea­son.

“We’ve proved that if we play our game, we can beat any­one,” he said. “I think we hold our­selves to a very high stan­dard and I think we can place pretty high this year and have a good run for it (the ti­tle).”

CAPE BRE­TON POST PHOTO

Af­ter strug­gling for a cou­ple of years to find full-time em­ploy­ment in the Que­bec Ma­jor Junior Hockey League, Ian Small­wood of St. John’s is get­ting reg­u­lar ice time as an 19-year-old with the Cape Bre­ton Scream­ing Ea­gles.

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