The Fairbanks Ice Dogs clearly have many offensive weapons, and Samuel Ruffin has a way of finding them.
The 19-year-old from Westfield, Indiana, shares the North American Hockey League lead with 32 assists and ranks fourth in overall scoring with 49 points in 48 games.
“I’ve always been a pass-first kind of guy,” Ruffin said. “I like sharing the puck and watching my teammates have success as well.
“It’s always been part of my game, moving the puck and moving my feet. I think it’s fun to help my teammates.”
The way the Ice Dogs have played, there have been plenty of scorers for Ruffin to find. More importantly, there have been players working to put themselves in position to score.
Fairbanks leads the NAHL with 181 goals, fueling a 13-game winning streak and a 29-0-2-0 record in the last 31 games. The Midwest Division-leading Ice Dogs have the league’s best overall record at 38-5-3-2.
“From the beginning of the year, I knew we were going to have a big year,” said Ruffin, who is in his second season with the team. “Obviously, I didn’t think it would be as good as we are doing now."
“I’m ecstatic. All the guys are chipping in and doing their part, which is good to see. If we keep up the hard work, I think we can keep it going and make a really good push for the Robertson Cup.”
Working hard for coach Trevor Stewart is something Ruffin said the Ice Dogs have continued to do through their success.
“Everyone’s working hard,” Ruffin said. “One of the things Stewie always says is, ‘Hard work is never not the answer.’”
The Ice Dogs, looking for their third Robertson Cup title in five seasons, have plenty of offensive weapons.
Tanner Schachle has 22 goals to lead a group of nine players in double figures for goal scoring.
Erkka Vanska, Schachle, Robert Blueger and Hunter Wendt are all within five points of Ruffin’s team-high points total of 49.
Jax Murray and Jack Johnston, Ruffin’s linemates for much of the season, join in a group of nine players with at least 29 points.
“I’m enjoying playing with those two and we work really well together,” Ruffin said in a phone interview after playing in this week’s NAHL Top Prospects Tournament.
Defensemen Kyle Mayhew, Luke Orysiuk, Nolan Schaeffer and John Stampohar have at least 20 points each.
It has all made for an enjoyable on-ice experience for Ruffin.
Ruffin has also found Alaska to his liking off the ice. The former Culver Academy player has committed to play at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the nation's northernmost Land, Sea, and Space Grant university.
“When I went up to play for the Ice Dogs, I fell in love with the place,” said Ruffin. “With UAF being five minutes down the road, it was kind of an obvious decision when they started talking to me.
“That’s a place I would love to attend and it worked out in my favor.”
Ruffin, who won a USA Hockey Youth Tier II National Championship in San Jose, California, with the Indianapolis Racers in 2011, plans to study business management with a sports management minor.
The Ice Dogs regular season wraps up March 31, concluding a three-game homestand with the Kenai River Brown Bears.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.