Two Small-School Champions: Smith and Baum

 It is fairly easy to point out the similari-ties between the seasons that senior Austin Smith from the ice hockey team and junior Peter Baum from the lacrosse team have had. Both led the nation in goals, Smith with 36 and Baum with 51, and both are arguably the best players in the country for their respective sport in the 2011-2012 school year. They are both also at the heart of a prolific scoring offense that in the case of one team helped it make a dramatic turnaround from the previous year (hock-ey), while the other continued the resur-gence started a season ago, this time with a first-year coach (lacrosse).

The two student-athletes were and are strong candidates to win the sport’s most coveted awards, the Hobey Baker in the case of hockey, and the Tewaarton Trophy in the case of lacrosse. While Smith did not win the Hobey Baker Award, he was still one of the last three in the running and there is a much stronger case for him to have won it than not, yet certain biases against the con-ference in which he played in may have been held against him. In the case of Baum, the Tewaarton Trophy has not been awarded yet, nor has the field been cut down to the final five finalists, but he has an equally good chance as Smith did to win it. The similari-ties between the two seasons or two profiles do not end there.

Smith was two goals away from tying the single-season record for goal scoring by a Colgate hockey player, which was set in the early 1980s in a time in which Colgate still played the occasional game against Division III opponents. The game has since changed and this year the senior from Texas played in the toughest conference to score goals and faced the best defensive team in the nation three separate times, averaging a point per game against them. In the case of Baum, he is inching closer to surpassing Colgate’s single-season goal-scoring record in lacrosse and is quickly moving up the list in single-season goals in the Patriot League. With at least two games remaining and hopefully more, he has an outside chance of breaking the league’s single-season record.

Both coming from a small school, they might have faced similar hardships and ob-stacles toward gaining the respect from the media and so-called experts, as well as those they might have had to overcome in order to win their sports’ individual awards. Both have received similar amounts of praise and criticism this year from members of the media for their accomplishments, the criticism coming from those who disrespect their work due to the league they play in. Smith had to face the undeserved stigma of playing in ECAC Hockey, especially when taking on players from the likes of tradi-tional powers like Boston College, the Uni-versity of Maine, Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota. Baum will most likely have to do the same, but this time against players from powerhouses such as John Hopkins, Virginia and Duke, to name a few.

While Smith did not win the Hobey Baker Award, Baum has a chance to make a statement for himself in front of a national audience when the tenth-ranked lacrosse team hosts the Patriot League Tourna-ment, which will be televised by CBS Col-lege Sports. Regardless of the outcome, the Colgate community ought to be proud of the effort these two men have put toward having career seasons this year, which have brought much deserved praise to one of the smallest athletic programs in Division I athletics this season.

Contact Jaime Heilbron at [email protected]