NANOOK CORNER: Former Ice Dogs Sam Ruffin and Caleb Hite adapt to College Hockey
This weekend the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and the Alaska Nanooks will both be playing at home.
With that in mind, I caught up with the two former Ice Dogs on the roster for this week's Nanook Corner.
The Alaska Nanooks are no strangers to former Fairbanks Ice Dogs on the roster, and the two latest players to decide to continue their hockey career in Fairbanks are Sam Ruffin and Caleb Hite. After standout seasons with the Ice Dogs in 2017-2018, Hite and Ruffin were able to achieve the goal every Junior Hockey player has, and were given the opportunity to play division one hockey.
"We have great coaching with Scotty and Stew over there. It really helped us prepare for this next level. We've had 14 commits from that team last year. We had a great team; we were practicing against the best players in our league every practice. That really prepared us for this level," said Hite.
"They taught us how to win. And we learned that through practice and how many commits we had I think it was good to get used to that level of play already," said Ruffin.
The fact that they were able to earn a spot on a division one team is no surprise for those who watched them play for the Ice Dogs. Ruffin was the second leading scorer on the team last season, earning 57 points with 20 goals and 37 assists. Hite was also one of the top scorers, earning 40 points with 19 goals and 21 assists. Although they have seen limited time on the Ice as Nanooks, these freshmen are adjusting to the college game.
"It's a little bit faster paced, more competitive in practice. We're coming in younger guys. For the Ice Dogs we were veterans last year. You could have an off night and still be on the lineup, still be on the powerplay. Here you have an off night you might be sitting up in the stands. But it's been pretty good and what we were expecting," said Hite.
The purpose of Junior Hockey is to help players like Hite and Ruffin refine their game, shine in front of scouts, and earn division one scholarships. Now they get to spend the next four years playing the game they love in the Golden Heart City.
"The community we have in Fairbanks is awesome. You can't beat it. That was a big factor for me. And the facilities and coaching staff.. it was kind of a no-brainer for me," said Ruffin.