Last Updated: Wed Jan 25, 2023 - 2:44PM
While few players from the PIHL go on to compete in varsity hockey at the collegiate level, Greater Latrobe has produced multiple talents who have followed that path over the past decade. Following his graduation from Greater Latrobe, defenseman Lane Ruffner continued to play hockey at a high level, and joined the college ranks this season at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Ruffner is under the microscope in the latest installment of the Westmoreland Alum Q&A.
Ruffner carved out an important role for Greater Latrobe as a freshman during the 2016-17 campaign, as he appeared in 15 contests, registering seven assists. The Wildcats went 9-9-1, reaching the play-in round of the Class AA playoffs. From there, Greater Latrobe went on an unexpected run, as the Wildcats defeated Mars Area, Moon Area, and Quaker Valley to reach the Penguins Cup Championship. With the title on the line, however, GL came up short against Plum. Ruffner appeared in all four postseason contests, but did not register a point.
The next season, Ruffner played in 15 games for GL during the regular season, posting a goal and 10 assists. The Wildcats posted a record of 13-6, but were upset by Quaker Valley in the PIHL Class AA quarterfinals.
As a junior, Ruffner increased his production, as he compiled seven goals and 16 assists in 19 games. Greater Latrobe went 14-4-1, and returned to the Class AA Penguins Cup postseason. After defeating Hampton in the quarterfinals, though, the Wildcats fell to Pine-Richland in the semifinals to conclude the campaign.
In his senior campaign in 2019-20, Ruffner appeared in 14 games, registering five goals and 13 helpers. Greater Latrobe amassed a record of 16-1-1 during the regular season. In the playoffs, GL cruised past Armstrong and edged Hempfield Area, securing a spot in the championship. Through those postseason games, Ruffner notched a pair of assists. The matchup against Baldwin never occurred, however, as COVID cancelled the remainder of the postseason.
Ruffner, who also played for the Esmark Stars during his time in high school, then opted to continue his hockey career with the New Hampshire Monarchs for the 2020-21 season. Playing in the United States Premier Hockey League, Ruffner appeared in 15 games, producing three goals and nine assists. During postseason play, Ruffner added an assist in two contests.
He continued with the Monarchs last season, competing in 47 games and posting six assists. Ruffner also suited up for five playoff tilts, notching one goal.
This season, Ruffner made the jump to the NCAA level, joining UMass Dartmouth. He has played in all 18 games on the blueline, recording four assists and a +5 plus-minus rating. To this point, the Corsairs have gone 6-10-2, including 4-6-1 in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC).
Lane took time from his busy schedule to field questions about the adjustment to college hockey, his reaction to the cancellation of the Penguins Cup Championship, and which superpower he’d like to possess.
Q: How have you evaluated your play thus far for UMass Dartmouth?
A: So far this year, I’m happy with the way I’ve been playing throughout the season. I’ve made it into the lineup for every game, and I’m getting consistent playing time.
Q: What have been the biggest adjustments to NCAA hockey this season?
A: The biggest adjustment was getting used to playing hockey and managing my schoolwork. I’ve been out of high school for two years, and getting back into managing schoolwork and hockey was not easy.
Q: What are your best attributes on the ice?
A: My biggest contribution on the ice would be very strong play in the defensive zone and being very physical in the defensive zone.
Q: What team and individual goals did you set for this season?
A: Some of the goals I had this year were to do whatever the team needed me to do and be the best I can be for my teammates.
Q: What led to your decision to attend UMass Dartmouth?
A: One of the reasons I chose to attend UMass Dartmouth was I like the way the campus was set up, and they have a good engineering program. Another reason was I like the coaches and the size of the freshman class coming in on the hockey team, which gave me a better chance to get into the lineup.
Q: What is your major and ideal future profession?
A: I’m majoring in mechanical engineering.
Q: Aside from hockey, what has been your favorite aspect of college?
A: My favorite part of college so far would be getting to spend a lot of time with my teammates and creating a friendship that I’ll have for the next four years.
Q: How did your experience with the New Hampshire Jr Monarchs benefit you?
A: My experience with the Monarchs helped me prepare for college hockey by improving my skills and understanding of the game.
Q: You attended Greater Latrobe High School. What was your fondest memory there?
A: The best memory I have from Greater Latrobe would be the late-night bus rides home from away games with my teammates.
Q: What was your reaction when you learned that you wouldn't have the chance to play for the Penguins Cup Championship in 2020 because of COVID?
A: I was upset at first because after playing varsity for four years, that’s what our goal was, but I had no control over the decision they made to cancel the game, so I didn’t dwell on the fact we were unable to play.
Q: Who is your favorite NHL player, past or current?
A: My favorite hockey player is Kris Letang.
Q: Do you have any superstitions or rituals before, during, or after a game?
A: Before every game, I do pretty much the same thing - I start with stretching and warming up as a team, then after, I stretch alone. Once I’m on the ice, I do the exact same warmup before each game. At the end of warmups, I take two hard laps around our defensive zone.
Q: To which movies or TV shows can you recite nearly every line?
A: My favorite movie is The Longest Yard
Q: If you had one superpower, what would it be?
A: If I could have a superpower, it would be the ability to fly, because it would make traveling a lot easier.