Q&A: Sam Ruffin, Alaska-Fairbanks Recruit

Sam Ruffin, a 3.5-star prospect recently committed to Alaska-Fairbanks. He’s a 200-foot forward who improved rapidly last year in his first season in the NAHL. The Indiana native played for Culver and for two seasons. He left a year early to join the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the NAHL, putting up 30 points through 58 games in his first season. Ruffin then committed to the local college team, University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

Neutral Zone caught up with Ruffin to discuss his youth hockey career, playing for the Ice Dogs, and more.

How and when did you start playing hockey?

I started playing hockey at the age of four. My parents were instrumental in getting me started in hockey at a young age.

What’s your earliest memory from playing hockey?

My earliest memory is my first year of travel hockey. I played for the Arctic Blast Mite travel team. Our greatest achievement that year was winning the international Silver Stick Tournament in Pelham, Ontario Canada.

What was your youth hockey experience like?

My youth hockey experience was very good. I played for the Arctic Blast, Indianapolis Racers, and the Indiana Jr. Ice. I was part of several very successful ’98 birth-year teams in Indianapolis. We won several tournament championships through Bantam Major, which included a USA Hockey National Title our PeeWee Major year.

How did playing at Culver help you develop?

I think playing at Culver Military Academy helped me develop leadership skills, a strong work ethic, and self-discipline.

Take us through the NCAA recruitment process. What other schools were you talking to and where did you visit?

For me, the process was very exciting and quite honestly very satisfying. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks coaching staff has been nothing but a pleasure to work with. The recruiting process started my first year of junior hockey with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and continued into this season and ultimately led to an offer to join their program. I cannot say enough about the support the entire Fairbanks Ice Dogs organization provided through my recruiting process. I also had conversations with AIC and visited Bemidji State and Wisconsin.

What made you decide to commit to Alaska-Fairbanks? What went into that decision for you and your family to know it was the right place? 

After spending the past two seasons playing junior hockey in Fairbanks, I knew there was no other place in the country that could offer me the experience of a lifetime while fulfilling both my academic and hockey goals.  The WCHA is a good league that offers my family the opportunities to travel to most away games as well. Fairbanks has a very passionate fan base and I look forward to being a part of that for several more years. After visiting and speaking with the UAF coaching staff and ultimately my Parents, I knew UAF was the best place for me to continue my education and hockey career.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen while playing hockey?

The strangest thing I have seen was when I was on mite travel and our goalie was struggling big time and our coach decided that we would be better off to pull the goalie rather than play with a goalie. So, for the entire third period we played without a goalie and never gave up another goal.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s given you in hockey?

Never give up on your dreams and nothing beats hard work.

What are your biggest on-ice skills?

Skating, awareness, and my compete level.

What aspect of your game are you working on improving the most?

I am working to improve my puck-shooting skills and to increase my scoring chances. I am also continuing to improve my work in the faceofff circle.

Is there a professional player you model your game after?

I model my game after Johnathan Toews. He is a hard-working, two-way center and a complete player in my mind.

What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced in hockey?

The toughest challenge I’ve faced was proving the naysayers wrong when I decided to leave Culver Military Academy a year early to go join the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the NAHL. I would say it all worked out pretty well.

What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced in life?

Fortunately, I have great family support and a strong spiritual background that has helped me overcome any difficult challenges I have faced.