Leading from the Back
UML's Ruhwedel Did it All in Hockey East Title Win
by Jill Saftel/CHN Reporter
BOSTON Chad Ruhwedel knows what it feels like to skate in the Hockey East tournament. He's tasted defeat, last year, it came at the hands of Providence in a three-game series. The Friars knocked Massachusetts-Lowell out of the running for the conference title.
And now he knows what it's like to have a hand in the Hockey East title-winning goal.
In the third period of Saturday's Hockey East championship game, Derek Arnold, Scott Wilson and Ruhwedel were making a 3-on-2 rush toward Sean Maguire in the Boston University net in a tight contest which remained scoreless after two periods. Ruhwedel assisted on Derek Arnold's goal at 11 minutes, 9 seconds of the third period.
After losing to Providence in 2012 and falling to Union in the second round of the NCAA tournament, 2013 has gone quite differently for the junior defenseman and his team. He can now add Hockey East tournament champion in addition to regular-season champion to his resume. The assist on a trophy-clinching goal is nothing more than a nice add-on for Ruhwedel.
"It's cool and all; but winning this trophy, it just makes me speechless," Ruhwedel said. "It means the world to us. It's been a long season. We had a tough start, but it just shows the character of our team how we bounced back. Once we got rolling we never looked back."
The River Hawks started 3-6-1 in Hockey East play this season and went on to end the regular season in the No. 1 spot. That resiliency was put on display in the River Hawks' semifinal win on Friday. Ruhwedel embodies the Lowell determination and mindset. The all-league defenseman contributes on offense and with his determination without the puck.
Ruhwedel, an assistant captain, said both the Hockey East title and the all-Tournament Team nod absolutely validate that he's personally succeeding in being the kind of defenseman he wants to be for his team.
"I look at myself as a leader, but I think some other guys do too," he said. "I try to do my best to act like that day in and day out. That's a challenge in and of itself but it's pretty easy to be a leader with teammates like these."
Ruhwedel sits sixth among Lowell's top scorers with seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points. He's also the team's top scoring defenseman. On top of that, he leads the team in plus/minus at plus-16. The presence of freshman goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has motivated Ruhwedel to elevate his defensive game even further.
"As a defenseman, it's the best thing in the world to have a goaltender like that that stops the puck," he said. "I mean, both of our goaltenders were unbelievable and you know if a shot gets through that they're going to stop that puck for you. Because of that, you have their back whenever they're in trouble so, it's just a team effort. Having goalies like that is pretty priceless for a defenseman."
And now the River Hawks have a chance to make another NCAA run. The likely No. 1 seed in the Manchester Regional, led by their versatile defenseman, is pleased with its league championship. The attention shifts now to the next tournament. It's another chance for Ruhwedel to lead a team proving it belongs at the top, claiming the first Hockey East title for a team not named Boston University, Boston College, New Hampshire or Maine for the first time since 1996.
In the same way that he said his team kept rolling once it turned around the sluggish start to early season play, when it comes to his own play on the ice Ruhwedel is looking to do the same thing heading into the NCAA tournament — win a tournament they know they belong in.
"For me, it's just keep rolling, focus on the little things," Ruhwedel said. "You've got to prepare mentally. It's just another stepping stone to where we want to be. If you look at that, I mean, we're playing. We're not scared of anything.
"We're not holding onto something we don't have. You know, we're just going out there and playing, taking what we think is essentially ours."