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Time to stop underrating UMass Lowell's C.J. Smith

C.J. Smith (19)
C.J. Smith (19)
Matt Dewkett

Lowell, Mass. -- When discussing the top forwards in Hockey East, C.J. Smith's name often gets overlooked. Friday night at Tsongas Center the sophomore forward proved once again why that is a mistake.

Smith had two primary assists, including on the game-winning goal, as UMass Lowell took game one of its best-of-three Hockey East Quarterfinal series against Boston University by a score of 3-2.

Both were beautiful passes from the half wall on the power play. They were quick, crisp passes right on the tape of his intended target. On the first assist at the 8:58 mark of the second period, he set up linemate Joe Gambardella for a goal right on top of the goalmouth to even the score, 1-1.

His second assist was an absolute thing of beauty. On the wall, he took a pass from Tommy Panico at the blue line. The puck barely even hit Smith's stick before he had it zipped to the weak side where Adam Chapie one-timed it right into the back of the net. The goal extended the River Hawks lead to 3-1 with 4:38 left in the third period.

Smith, a Des Moines, Iowa native, now has 14 goals and 21 assists in 35 games on the season. He led the River Hawks in scoring as a rookie last season with 35 points in 39 games.

Most just think of UMass Lowell as a team that plays the system of head coach Norm Bazin to perfection and that the next man will step up. But, the team isn't without a star whose impact is integral to its success. When the Chicago Steel alum scores at least a point over the past two seasons, UML is 29-9-6 compared to 14-11-5 when he's held off the score sheet.

Smith's biggest attribute is his speed, but he thinks the game sees the ice well. On both of his assists last night, he knew where he was sending the puck before he even received the biscuit.

Game two between the River Hawks and Terriers is tonight at 7 p.m. right back at the Tsongas Center.