Taking the Canisius College hockey team to new heights during his career, Dave Smith is in his 12th season as head coach of the Golden Griffin program.
Smith has enjoyed a number of memorable moments during his coaching tenure and has continued to raise the bar while leading the Canisius program. Most recently, Smith has led the Griffs to three-straight trips to Atlantic Hockey Championship weekend for the first time in school history, including consecutive appearances in the title game and the team’s first crown in 2013. The program has also received national attention with its graduates having unprecedented success at the professional level.
During the 2012-13 campaign, Smith guided Canisius to the program’s first conference title with a 7-2 victory in the Atlantic Hockey Championship against Mercyhurst and the team’s first appearance in the NCAA Division I Tournament. The Griffs also finished the campaign ranked 19th in the final USCHO.com national poll, marking the program’s highest finish in the national rankings.
Canisius nearly duplicated the remarkable feat the following two seasons, advancing to the 2014 Atlantic Hockey title game after again eliminating the top two seeds in the conference tournament before earning a second-place finish in 2015 – matching the program’s best regular-season finish – and making a third-straight trip to the semifinals.
Away from campus, 2011 graduate Cory Conacher continued to make news at the highest level. Named one of the top 30 players at the Division I level in the last 10 seasons, Conacher became the first Griff to play in the National Hockey League and has enjoyed stints with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders. Conacher also became just the fourth player in AHL history to garner Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year accolades in the same season, helping lead the Norfolk Admirals to the 2012 Calder Cup just one year after graduating from Canisius and excelling under Smith’s leadership.
The achievements under Smith are not limited to just the past four years. In his first 11 seasons leading the Golden Griffin program, he has guided numerous student-athletes to success both on and off the ice. The Griffs have collected athletic and academic honors as well as enjoying successful careers after graduation. The highlights include:
• A total of 33 Griffs have signed professional contracts after playing under Smith at Canisius, highlighted by Conacher and defender Carl Hudson inking NHL deals. Hudson became the first Griff to join an NHL franchise when he signed with the Florida Panthers after graduating in 2010.
• Smith has mentored three student-athletes who have earned individual postseason awards. Conacher highlights the honorees by being named the 2009-10 Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year, while David Kasch earned the league’s Best Defensive Forward following the 2007-08 season and Dave Kostuch collected Rookie of the Year accolades in 2008-09. Conacher and Kyle Gibbons were also selected to the Senior CLASS Award All-America First Team in 2011 and 2014, respectively, while Conacher was named to the All-Atlantic Hockey 10th Anniversary First Team in 2013.
• Overall, 10 Griffs earned all-conference accolades in the past eight seasons a total of 13 times, nine more than Canisius’ first 10 seasons at the Division I level combined. During the 2014-15 campaign, a school-record three Griffs earned All-Atlantic Hockey honors when Chris Rumble collected first-team accolades, while Keegan Asmundson and Ralph Cuddemi were named to the second team. Cuddemi repeated the honor during the 2015-16 season to become the third Griff to earn All-Atlantic Hockey accolades twice during his career, while Shane Conacher was named to the first team.
• Canisius student-athletes have consistently ranked among the best in the country under Smith’s leadership. Goaltender Tony Capobianco led all players in Division I with 1,256 saves during the 2012-13 campaign, which also ranks as the 12th-best total in NCAA history and the most since the 1988-89 season. Conacher ranked second nationally in points per game during the 2009-10 campaign after recording a program-record 53 points.
• The Griffs have enjoyed unparalleled success against some of the nation’s top competition under Smith’s watch. During the 2008-09 season, Canisius swept a pair of games against eventual NCAA quarterfinalist and 15th-ranked Air Force, marking the first victories for the Griffs against a nationally-ranked opponent. Canisius has continued the trend in recent years with six wins against nationally-ranked schools, most recently against perennial-power Denver during the 2013-14 campaign.
• In his first 11 seasons, 186 Griffs have earned Atlantic Hockey All-Academic accolades, including a school-record 23 following the 2013-14 campaign. In addition, Max Buetow (2005-06), Dave Cianfrini (2009-10), Ryan Bohrer (2011-12 & 2013-14), Stephen Miller (2012-13 & 2013-14) and Geoff Fortman (2014-15 & 2015-16) were named the Atlantic Hockey Top Scholar Athlete for owning the top GPA in the league. The hockey program consistently owns the top GPA of any team at Canisius with a 3.31 cumulative mark following the 2015-16 academic year.
• Canisius has also enjoyed a long history of success at the professional level outside of playing the game, highlighted most recently by two-time Griff captain Peter MacDougall ’10 being named an NHL referee in 2016.
Smith became the program’s third head coach on April 15, 2005 after serving the previous three seasons as the associate coach and recruiting coordinator at fellow Atlantic Hockey member Mercyhurst College. He also spent time as an assistant coach with Bowling Green and Miami. During his tenure as an assistant coach, Smith coached or recruited:
• Two Hobey Baker Award Finalists
• Four Players of the Year
• Two Rookies of the Year
• 22 all-league award winners
• Three Terry Flanagan Award Winners for Perseverance
The Arthur, Ontario, native was also instrumental in guiding Mercyhurst to two league championships and two NCAA Division I Tournament appearances in his three seasons with the Lakers.
Smith graduated from The Ohio State University in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/public relations and was a four-year letterwinner for the Buckeyes. Smith finished his career at Ohio State with 140 points, ranking 14th all-time. He was selected as team captain as a junior and chosen as the team’s MVP as a senior, while leading the Buckeyes with 41 assists and 63 points.
After graduating from Ohio State, Smith spent six seasons in professional hockey, including five full seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL) and the International Hockey League (IHL) and a brief period in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). He was under contract with the New York Rangers in 1994-95. Smith has spent his summers coaching young players and adults as a director and head instructor at numerous camps across the United States and Canada.
In addition to his responsibilities at Canisius, Smith serves on the board of directors at College Hockey Inc.
Smith and his wife, Susan, have two daughters, Ellis and Kylie. Susan is the Director for Interdisciplinary Degree Programs at the University at Buffalo, while Ellis is a member of the hockey program at Manhattanville College and Kylie plays softball for Nazareth College.