WSHL Legend Nemeth Looks Back on Storied Junior Career

by James Talluto

There is one name in Western States Hockey League history that is synonymous with scoring.  That name is the league’s all-time leading scorer, Tomas Nemeth.  The Slovakian forward played four seasons in the league from 2012 to 2016, starring for Wichita, Long Beach and Oklahoma City.  Over his 148 games in the WSHL, Nemeth notched 115 goals, which is 4th all-time in league history, and 210 assists, 1st all-time.  His 325 points are 21 more than any other WSHL player has ever produced. 

His highest point total in a single season was 105 (30G, 75A) in 2013-14 with Long Beach, which ranks as the 18th best single season in league history.  His secret, however, and how he got into the record books, was his consistency.  After his first season in the league, and his only with Wichita, in 2012-13 when he had nine goals and ten assists in ten games, he never failed to reach the century mark in points. 

Nemeth performed in the Thorne Cup Playoffs, as well.  He made the postseason three times in his career, twice with the Bombers and once in his lone season in Oklahoma City.  In 13 postseason games, Nemeth had nine goals and ten assists.

Nemeth’s stats by-team:

Wichita Jr. Thunder (2012-13): 10 GP, 9 G, 10 A

Long Beach Bombers (2013-15): 87 GP, 72 G, 133 A

Oklahoma City Jr. Blazers (2015-16): 51 GP, 34 G, 67 A

 

Q: How does it feel to know you made history in your junior career?

Nemeth: “Well obviously it does feel pretty good to reach such a big number and hit 100 points three seasons in a row in your junior career, but it wasn’t always just about me.  I played every season with great players, which I got used to playing with easily, and together we might have made it look a bit easier than it actually was.  Good team work and getting to know each other off the ice helped a lot.  Playing with guys like Filip Martinec, Patrik Johansson and Carl Lyden in Long Beach, and Adam Skutchan in Oklahoma City was a pleasure for me.”

Q: You played four seasons split between three different teams.  Which was your favorite and why?

Nemeth: “I didn’t really play my first year in Wichita, because after only eight games I dislocated my knee and had to have surgery, so that year was over with quickly.  After, I decided to join the Bombers because Martinec went there at the end of the season.  I decided to join him there because we played so great together in Wichita, and we just got used to each other so easily on and off the ice, so it wasn’t a hard decision.  Ever year was great in some way, and it’s kind of hard to say which one was my favorite.  I think the first year in Long Beach was really good for me personally, as I was still a youngster in the league.  But also, in Oklahoma City as a veteran was great.  We were doing great the whole year, just hoped for a better playoff run to end that year.  Ever year was special in some kind of way, and every year gave me something new to my life.  New life experiences, hockey experiences, and they all brought new people to my life.”

Q: What initially drew you to the WSHL, and why did you decide to play your junior career in the league?

Nemeth: “At first as a 16 year-old, I wasn’t looking to play in the WSHL because I was still young, and I was actually heading to the Atlanta Fire to play U18 AAA.  But I didn’t get the right kind of visa for that league, so I had to go play somewhere else where I could work with the visa that I had at the time.  I got an offer from Wichita two weeks before the season actually started, so I took it and ended up there.”

Q: What was your “trick?”  How did you put up so many points in the WSHL?

Nemeth: “I don’t know! My line mates could score from wherever I gave them the puck, I guess.  I do like assists way more than goals, so I am just trying to find people in the right spot at the right time.  I am more excited about passing to the empty net than actually scoring the goal myself, and I know the puck is the fastest player on the ice, so when you move it at the right time everything is easier.  When you move the puck quick, you create more open space on the ice, so I just wasn’t afraid to pass it to my teammates and just trusted them with the puck as well as they trusted me.”

Q: Was there a pregame routine that you had throughout your junior career?

Nemeth: “Of course there were some of them I just keep to myself, but exact same order of stretching, tape job and many others.  For example, I don’t like when somebody touches my stick before a game.”

Q: Is there one game that stands out above the rest during your time in the WSHL?

Nemeth: “I think winning the Midwest Division Final with Oklahoma was the best feeling, being able to beat El Paso and Springfield.  Personally, every year when I was about to hit 100 points, those games were special and never got old for me.  I did it twice in the last games of the regular season, putting up five and six points in those games when nobody believed that I could actually do it and break 100.  I did it and proved them wrong, and showed them that anything is possible.  Obviously it felt good and those were the nights to remember.”

Nemeth is now entering his first season of professional hockey.  In late August, the Fayetteville Marksmen of the Southern Professional Hockey League announced that they had signed Nemeth for the upcoming season.

Follow along with WSHL Western Division Correspondent Steven Force all season  long (@Steven_Force_)

Photo courtesy of Marc Mauno