The adjustment of Kenai River Brown Bears rookie forward Matt Rudin to the speed of junior hockey and the darkness of an Alaska winter is just about complete.
Rudin, an 18-year-old from Northfield, Ohio, has four goals and three assists in his last four games for the Brown Bears, and eight points in his last six games.
Before his current hot streak, Rudin had one point in nine games. It took him 21 games to get his first seven points, and just six to get his next eight.
“It’s a matter of him understanding what it takes to compete day in and day out at this level,” Brown Bears coach Geoff Beauparlant said.
Rudin, drafted in the fifth round by the Bears this year, has also made a nice transition to living in Alaska.
“I was shocked,” Rudin said of his reaction to getting drafted by the Bears. “I didn’t know anything about Kenai, Alaska. I had to do some research.”
Once he did some research, Rudin, from a town of about 3,500 outside of Cleveland, began to see some pluses in his journey north.
“I was looking forward to it,” he said. “I’m an outdoorsy-type guy, and this is a good place for outdoorsy-type people.
“It’s a great place to get out in nature and do some sightseeing.”
Rudin also said he likes to fish, but he had just one shot before winter set in. He was skunked in that attempt.
He said the one thing that worried him about the Last Frontier was the daylight in winter, but he was pleasantly surprised to learn that this is pretty much as dark as it gets.
Kenai will lose less than 10 minutes of daylight before the winter solstice on Dec. 21.
“I didn’t know that,” he said. “I thought it was going to be dark all day.”
Like the daylight, Beauparlant expects rookies like Rudin to be on the upswing from here on out.
“The younger guys are figuring it out,” the coach said. “They’re realizing the work that has to be put in day in, day out in practice, the gym and the off-ice stuff we do.
“They’re learning to be junior hockey players, and some of the older guys have taken them under their wing to help them learn.”
Rudin, a product of the Cleveland Barons U-18 squad, gave credit to the veterans and the whole team for helping him to get so many points lately.
“Definitely the biggest adjustment has been the speed of the game,” he said. “That’s a big step coming from U-18.”
Beauparlant said Rudin, a plus-3 this season, has been aided by his consistent approach to the game. He said all rookies have ups and downs, but the effort Rudin puts forth on the ice has helped him consistently improve.
“He’s physically fit and he’s an excellent skater, a pretty deceptive skater,” Beauparlant said. “He has a long, powerful stride.
“His skill set allows him to make plays for other guys and create for himself, as well.”
For about three weeks, Rudin has been grouped with rookie Jack Gessert and veteran Kenai Central product Zack Zulkanycz on a line.
“We have a lot of chemistry,” Rudin said. “It’s worked out great because I hang out with Jack a lot off the ice.”
Rudin, the son of Lynn and John Rudin and billet son of Patty Moran, said the goal is to keep improving.
“I have to keep working on the little things like moving my feet,” he said. “The little things add up to big things.”