Dream battle possible for Smiths

2010-03-30T08:00:00Z Dream battle possible for SmithsAndy Baggot | 608-252-6175 | abaggot@madison.com madison.com

The premise has been upgraded from absurd to plausible, but Lester Smith still won't be a believer until his sons line up against one another and play for the same national title.

"It was kind of a pipe dream," he said. "It still is."

Brendan Smith is a junior defenseman for the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team, which will play the Rochester Institute of Technology in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals April 8.

Reilly Smith is a freshman left winger for Miami of Ohio, which will play Boston College in the other semifinal set for Ford Field in Detroit.

It's possible the NCAA championship game April 10 could pit brother vs. brother — Brendan is 21; Reilly turns 19 Thursday — who went from sharing the same bedroom and bunk beds to almost being college teammates and to being highly regarded NHL draftees.

"Just to have that chance is exciting," Brendan said Monday, two days removed from a 5-3 win over St. Cloud State in the West regional final that got the second-ranked Badgers to their first Frozen Four since 2006. "Hopefully, it will come."

But as tantalizing as that thought might be, Reilly recommends the wait-and-see approach.

"You really don't want to think that far ahead," he said via cell phone Monday, roughly 18 hours after the top-ranked RedHawks claimed a 3-2 double-overtime victory over Michigan in the Midwest regional final. "You can't jump to conclusions."

Regardless of what happens in the semifinals, the brothers figure to play a prominent role.

Brendan is the top-scoring defenseman in the nation with 15 goals and 32 assists in 40 games and is one of 10 nominees for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top U.S. college player.

Reilly has eight goals and 12 assists in 43 games and currently skates on a top line with center Andy Miele and right winger Tommy Wingels.

Brendan and Reilly grew up playing hockey and roughhousing with their older brother Rory, a 23-year-old who plays pro lacrosse with the Orlando Titans. That's why Brendan laughed when UW teammates asked recently if he would hit his younger brother in the event they meet in the Frozen Four.

"You should have seen the games we had in the basement," Brendan said, rattling off a litany of broken bones, lost teeth and bruises. "They were pretty physical."

Now the brothers speak a couple of times and week and, according to Brendan, "shoot fun" back and forth via text messages.

"They're very close," Lester Smith said.

"He's my best friend," Brendan said of Reilly.

Brendan and Reilly were standouts for St. Mike's of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League and caught the eyes of NHL scouts. Brendan (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) was a first-round pick of Detroit in 2007, while Reilly (6-1, 170) was a third-round choice of Dallas in '09.

Both wound by being recruited by many of the same colleges. Brendan liked Miami, but his gut instinct brought him to Madison. Reilly liked UW, but the opportunity to enroll in 2009 instead of 2010 was a tipping point.

The brothers went the U.S. college route in part because their parents are educators. Lester is substitute teacher for fourth, fifth and sixth grades as well as a salesman, while Deidre is a former principal who works for the Ontario College of Teachers.

The parents are so involved in their sons' college careers that Lester and his father, Lester Sr., took in the Midwest regional in Fort Wayne, Ind., while Deidre traveled to the West regional in St. Paul, Minn.

When the season began five months ago, Lester Smith said friends from their Toronto enclave of Mimico mentioned it would be great if the boys got a chance to face one another. The father chuckled to himself because he knew the odds were long.

"Until we know, I still won't believe," Lester Smith said of such a match-up.

What happens if brother faces brother with a title ring and a broken heart on the line?

"Everyone says, ‘What are you going to do? Who are you going to cheer for?' " the father said. "I think at that point you just sit back and go, ‘This is fabulous. You just enjoy it.' "

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