Two local hockey standouts who once competed against each other in high school recently shared the ice on the same local junior hockey league as they continue on their journey through the ranks of the sport.
Trevor Smith was a force in net for the Freeburg-Raging Bulldogs before being drafted by the Peoria Mustangs of the North American Tier III Hockey League following his junior year.
Smith, a 2019 graduate of Waterloo High School, is now playing collegiate hockey at Illinois State University following stints with two NA3HL teams and a Canadian team in the Superior International Junior Hockey League.
“It’s been an up-and-down roller coaster over the past year,” Smith told the Republic-Times.
Sean Hofstetter, a 2018 graduate of Columbia High School, is playing his second season with the St. Louis Junior Blues of the NA3HL following an outstanding high school career with the Columbia Ice Eagles.
The forward has scored 29 goals with 22 assists in 38 games with the Junior Blues this season.
In addition, Hofstetter was chosen to play in the NA3HL Top Prospects Showcase.
“He is currently looking at colleges and has several universities contacting him about playing NCAA Division II and Division III hockey,” said his mother, Kelli Hofstetter. “He is undecided on where he wants to go and what area of studies he wants to pursue, so with the exposure at the Top Prospects Showcase, he is hoping to speak to other schools. He does know he wants to continue playing hockey.”
Last season, Sean recorded 18 goals and 23 assists in 45 games for the Junior Blues.
In January, Smith tore his meniscus while playing for Peoria, which required knee surgery and forced him to miss plenty of action.
Peoria eventually cut Smith, but fortunately the St. Louis Junior Blues gave him a shot last season.
Smith posted impressive numbers during his time with the Junior Blues, going 7-1 as their goaltender. He even recorded a shutout in his first start.
It was at this time that Smith and Hofstetter were playing for the same hockey team at the next level.
“We played with each other outside of high school and against each other in high school, so it’s funny how things come full circle,” Smith said.
The Junior Blues eventually brought in another goalie that was drafted by the big league St. Louis Blues, so Smith knew his playing time would be limited.
“I wasn’t going to sit around, so I voluntarily left the team,” he said.
Smith then joined the Dryden Ice Dogs, a Canadian team that plays in the SIJHL.
Smith said this junior league was a level better than the NA3HL, but he was only able to stay with the Ice Dogs for a short while.
“I only spent two weeks there because teams in that league are only allowed to keep six Americans on their roster and they couldn’t keep me there,” Smith explained.
Smith said he had been in touch with Illinois State hockey coach Bobby Dinardi, who was in need of a goalie for the Redbird’s Division I team in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity, so here I am,” he said.
Smith is still getting accustomed to being college student-athlete.
In his first start, Smith faced 53 shots in a 5-0 loss to Illinois on Jan. 18.
Smith earned his first collegiate win on Feb. 1, stopping 28 shots in a 3-2 victory over Maryville University.