Throughout Head Coach Manny Viveiros’s press conferences, the importance of getting to the front of the net is a common thread. “Getting that traffic to the netfront puts yourself in the best position to score goals,” he emphasizes after almost every game – win or lose.
Forward Gemel Smith, who recently joined the Henderson Silver Knights on loan from the Tampa Bay Lightning, has been no stranger to the front of the net. In 44 games this season, Smith has put up 48 points (17G, 31A). 11 of those points (4G, 7A) have come in the nine games that he has played with the Henderson Silver Knights.
Special teams are just one of many areas that illustrate both his netfront presence and immediate team impact. Since Smith joined the Silver Knights on February 16, the Henderson power play has improved from 29th in the AHL to 20th, as well as to sixth in the Pacific Division. In the eight games he’s played with Henderson, he’s scored three power-play goals: two against Calgary and one against San Diego.
Smith credits his success with the Silver Knights to a wider team mentality and buy-in that has been crucial to their six-game winning streak, which tied a franchise record with their shootout victory over the Abbotsford Canucks.
“Guys expect to win now, because we know we can win every night. The guys believe in themselves, believe in the team, believe in the systems…that’s what’s working for us,” he said.
“And [the move] has been really easy on me. A lot of the guys have helped me out. The coaches and everyone have been making sure that I feel at home. It’s really been easy for me to come here, and obviously playing with great players has been making it easier for me.”
But it hasn’t just been the welcome of his new teammates and coaching staff that has made the transition easier for him. Getting the chance to play in Henderson and in front of the Silver Knights fanbase has also been instrumental.
“It’s unbelievable. There’s nothing like it. Probably one of the best rinks I’ve ever been in, I love the atmosphere. It makes it easy to play here for this team.”