Julian's happy to be a Raider
PUBLISHED: 11:29 25 February 2011
Smith pleased to make switch
Julian Smith is enjoying life as a Romford Raider.
The big defenceman joined the Rom Valley Way ranks from EPL side Peterborough in the autumn and is gearing up for the big ENL title showdown with Isle of Wight this weekend.
And Smith feels he made the right decision to join the gold and blue army.
He said: “I’d been at Peterborough for a number of years and the team had a new coach, who didn’t know me.
“We were in discussions about a contract but it dragged on a bit and I thought I might struggle to find a team so I rang around and one of the boys talked about Romford.
“I wanted to stay in the EPL ideally, but I got Marsh’s number and rang him and he said he wanted me.
“It helped that Jason [Buckman] was already here and it was really positive. It was nice to feel wanted.”
Smith was also pleased to see a good vibe at the club, despite their troubles in the EPL last season, when he first came to the rink.
“The guys were laughing and joking at training and there are some great characters in the dressing-room,” he said.
“It’s easy to come out of your shell and smiling is contagious.”
Winning has also become a habit for Raiders this season and they are currently enjoying a 13-game streak heading into this weekend’s action.
And Smith is glad to be playing his part in that success story, adding: “My job in the EPL was a third-line defenceman, who could step up when needed.
“I was never much of an attacking defenceman, I’ve always seen myself as a defensive defenceman and take pride in stopping the other team scoring.
“My role has changed massively and I’m looked to be at the top of my game as one of the top four defencemen, with a big presence on the ice. I’m really enjoying it and my confidence has massively built up.”
Taking the decision to swap EPL for ENL might have been criticized by some in British hockey circles, but Smith certainly has no regrets at this point.
“Some saw it as a step backwards dropping down, but I’m so happy I came to Romford,” he said.
“We’re in the top four and we’re looking to win the league. Peterborough are stuck in sixth place, can’t go up or down, and there have been a few problems off the ice so it’s not a happy place.
“We’ve been getting some great results at Romford and having a good laugh and joke.”
Raiders will have to get serious when the puck drops on the Isle of Wight if they are to maintain their title hopes.
Smith is only too aware of what teams need to be successful, having helped Peterborough to glory in 2008/9, and is keen to play his part on and off the ice with Romford.
He added: “I won the treble with Peterborough and know what it takes to win trophies and the hard work that goes into it.
“But I’ve also been in finals and been a runner-up and that’s always in the back of your mind, that little bit of fear.
“I see myself as trying to stand out and be an example for others to follow like Tyrone [Miller].
“He wants the best every time, the same as me, and has won and lost things. Together, hopefully, we can help the team to the title and play-offs.”
Raiders have conceded just 72 goals in 28 league games to date this season and that strong back line could provide the platform for an assault on the honours going into the last weeks of the campaign.
“I think we’ve probably got the best defence in the league.
“Our six can put up a brick wall and Mike [Gray] is easily the best goalie in this league. He’s showing it on a weekly basis and is a real asset to the team.
“I’ve got a very strong partnership with Pierre [Wilhelmsson]. He’s incredibly smart on the puck and his passing is so crisp, being Swedish it’s drilled into them.
“If I give him the puck he’ll find an outlet to the forwards and is very smart when he jumps into the play.”
Smart decisions go a long way in hockey and Smith is looking like he knows how to make them too.