Jr Gulls alumni and current 10th grader, Samantha Smigliani, recently committed to Colgate University (2019). Neutral Zone has had an opportunity to watch Samantha throughout the year, including at the Stoney Creek Midget Tournament. Samantha caught our eye, and certainly others, as she earned an invitation to the U18 Player Development Camp in St. Cloud, MN.
1) Tell us about your childhood. When did you start playing hockey?
I started playing recreational boys hockey at age 3 1/2 at a local club called the San Diego Saints. When I turned 9 I began playing travel boys hockey at the La Jolla Jaguars and eventually moved to the San Diego Jr. Gulls with the same group of boys at Pee Wee AA and eventually playing boys at Bantam AAA. Last year when I was 15 I made the change to girls’ hockey playing for the California Wave.
2) What got you into the game?
I started playing hockey because my dad played growing up in Massachusetts and has always loved the game. He got my older brother playing and it wasn't long after that until I was on the ice too.
3) Explain what it’s like growing up playing hockey in California. Did you have dreams of playing college hockey or was the concept foreign to you given that there are not many programs out west?
Playing hockey in California is not easy because we have to travel far to play games. When I was playing in San Diego, most games were 2-3 hours away. Now playing girls, my practices are 2 hours away also. Growing up playing ice hockey on the West Coast, I didn't really even think about the idea of playing college hockey until I was probably 13. Around that time, I began going to girls’ showcases on the East coast and in Canada and I started to realize what a huge opportunity it would be to play hockey in college.
4) When did you first realize you had the potential to play college hockey at the D1 level?
I first realized that I had the potential to play D1 hockey when I made my first national camp in 2014 and got an idea of what girls’ hockey looked like across the nation at the highest level for my age group.
5) How does it feel to have achieved your college hockey dream? What are your plans to stay motivated after already committing to a school?
It feels amazing to have achieved this accomplishment and for me it's not hard to stay motivated because now I feel like I am working for my future team's success and not just my own individual success and it's very exciting for me.
6) Walk us through your recruiting process. When did you first hear from colleges? Where did you visit? How did you visit Eastern schools being from California? Did you have multiple offers or just one? If so, who else offered?
The recruiting process started for me in about the end of seventh grade when I began to email colleges to watch me at showcases. In eighth grade I started talking to colleges on the phone and visiting a couple of colleges too. That continued through ninth grade and I was given several offers in ninth grade. I visited and met with coaches at Boston University, Dartmouth, Penn State, Princeton, Yale, Syracuse and Colgate, and also toured several other colleges on my own but didn't meet with coaches. I had offers from several of those schools as well.
7) Why Colgate? What were the factors that went into your decision to choose this school?
Ultimately, Colgate was the best all-around fit for me for several reasons. Academics are very important to me and Colgate is very strong academically. The campus is beautiful and how I've always pictured college would be with the old stone buildings, a lake and lots of green spaces. Hamilton is a great college town right next door. Additionally, I really like the coaching staff at Colgate and the Colgate hockey team is great and I look forward to playing with a lot of the other commits several of whom I am friends with already.
8) Describe your game to fans at Colgate who have never seen you play? What are your strengths and what are you looking to improve upon before enrolling at Colgate?
I'd describe my game as being a play maker/power forward. I want to continue to work on shooting off the rush and I also think I have good hands and make smart plays.