VANCOUVER – With Canada West hockey returning in a few weeks, the UBC Thunderbirds are preparing to kick off training camp with a healthy dose of confidence and expectations for the coming season, helped in large part by the addition of two big players on the blue line.
Saskatoon’s Matthew Smith and Vancouver-area native Matt Leduc are both set to start their U SPORTS careers with the blues and golds and both are set to make a significant impact on the program.
En route to UBC after a four-year WHL career spent entirely with the Victoria Royals, Smith brings a strong home and back game to the Birds with 34 points and just 42 penalty minutes in 211 regular season games.
âThe lack of penalty minutes only speaks to his hockey IQ and his positional game,â said the UBC head coach. Sven Butenschon. âHe’s always calm, he doesn’t take risks, doesn’t reach for his stick. It flew a little under the radar, but if you ask someone who has watched it, their ears will perk up. He’s just a quality defender that coaches love to have on their team. “
Enrolled in the Sauder School of Business, Smith certainly aims for success both on the ice and in the classroom.
?? Matthew Smith was a constant presence on the blue line for four full seasons with the @victoriaroyals.
On our way to Van Isle as we continue our Class of 2021 series! pic.twitter.com/jQHmKZGK4p
– The WHL (@TheWHL) August 30, 2021
âI decided to go to UBC to be part of a prestigious college program as well as an elite hockey program,â said the 5-foot-11, 187-pound defenseman. âTo further improve myself as a student and a hockey player, I believe UBC offers the best opportunity to do so. I would describe myself as a fast, disciplined, puck-moving defenseman. I’m proud to be a reliable defender while providing an offensive boost at the back. “
Like Smith, Leduc has played his entire WHL career with the same franchise, in his case, the Spokane Chiefs.
With a hefty size of 6ft 5in and 225lb, the Richmond product will bring the T-Birds physical ability and puck-moving ability.
âOn the ice, he’s big, plays with an advantage and is excellent on the penalty kill,â said Butenschon. âHe’s good with the puck which is big given the trend of the game now, you have to be able to move the puck quickly and get it back in the hands of the forwards. I think he fits the mold of a big, strong guy who can still move the puck well. “
In 174 regular season games with the Chiefs, Leduc has accumulated 33 points and 142 penalty minutes as well as a +4 rating.
âGoing to UBC provided an incredible opportunity to study at a very reputable school while joining a hockey program that has proven it can win and also take players to professional hockey,â said Leduc who really enjoyed his time in Spokane as it helped him prepare. for the next level. “I feel really lucky to have played all five years at Spokane. I have met so many amazing people in the Chiefs’ organization who have influenced my growth as a player and as a person.”
Leduc’s last two seasons at Spokane have seen him play under head coach Adam Maglio, a former Thunderbirds player and assistant coach. When it comes to Butenschon, these parallels have the potential to run deep.
“I can see him become a coach here one day, he’s as impressive as a human being and a leader,” said the UBC bench manager.
Leduc will start working towards his degree in Kinesiology this fall.
?? Matt Leduc piloted the @spokanechiefs blue line in nearly 200 regular season and playoff games.
We pivot to Spokane today as our Class of 2021 series continues! pic.twitter.com/yTBAqY4ctI
– The WHL (@TheWHL) August 26, 2021
The addition of these two veterans to the WHL blue liners follows the signings announced earlier from an incredibly talented group of forwards as well as goalkeeper Ethan Anders.
Having reached the College Cup for the first time in 43 years in 2020, the T-Birds have a strong squad that can help them advance to this point in any given season the expectation. , not the exception.
UBC will kick off the preseason games on Friday, September 17 by hosting Simon Fraser University.
The 2021-2022 Canada West season kicks off Friday, October 15 when the Birds host the Trinity Western Spartans for their home opener at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Center.