Topeka forward Rennaker makes NCAA DI commitment
June 12, 2015
By Arch Ecker, Topeka RoadRunners
The Topeka RoadRunners of the NAHL are proud to announce that two year forward and assistant captain Sam Rennaker has reached an agreement to play NCAA Division I hockey for the Niagara University Purple Eagles beginning in Fall 2015.
Rennaker’s path to college hockey began at a young age. “I started playing hockey when I was three”, recalls the Grand Rapids, MI native. “My older brothers both played and I was always watching their games and practices when I was little.” By the time he had moved to playing high school hockey at Forest Hills Northern/Eastern he had emerged as a standout forward. His 34 points in 19 games attracted some attention, and he was selected by the Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL draft in 2013. He had also caught the eye of a RoadRunners scout. “When I was playing high school hockey, Anthony Palumbo saw me play at a showcase and pulled me aside after a game to tell me about the RoadRunners.”
His life was about to change, leaving home for the first time to play hockey. “I started out in Des Moines and got cut after the pre-season. (RoadRunners) Coach (Scott) Langer called me that night and convinced me to come down to Topeka, and I am very happy he did.” The adjustment to leaving his familiar surroundings in Grand Rapids was smooth. “It was scary to start but I quickly got used to life away from home and my teammates and my billet mom made the transition pretty easy."
In his first season with Topeka, he appeared in 50 games, and registered a dozen points. The following season, he would be named as an assistant captain, an honor he took to heart. He only missed one game all season, and tripled his point production. He appeared in his 100th RoadRunner game on Feb. 28, 2015, becoming the 39th player in team history to hit that mark. Rennaker was also selected to and play in the 2015 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in Ann Arbor, MI for the South Division team.
Looking back on his time in Topeka, Rennaker has numerous treasured memories. “My fondest RoadRunner experience would be winning the South Division championship my first year in Topeka. But a close second would be the night I ‘made it rain teddy bears’ in honor of Peter Halash.” His final regular season game as a RoadRunner was a huge game as well. Playing in Wenatchee in a game his team needed to win to earn a first round playoff bye, he scored the first goal of the game to give his team a 1-0 lead. The goal was his 50th career point. For an encore, Rennaker would bury a shot in the shootout that evening to cement the victory.
Though he still has a year of junior eligibility, Rennaker got the chance to explore Niagara University and the choice for him was clear. “I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the campus, and the coaches made me feel right at home. I did not know if I would enjoy a small school, but after my visit I knew that it was the right school for me.” Rennaker intends to major in business.
The time a player spends playing juniors is a tremendous opportunity for growth, and Rennaker feels he has benefitted from it. “I think I am a lot more independent and a lot more focused since being in Topeka," he reflected. "The organization really makes you focus on your goals and turns you into a man a lot quicker than any college can.”
He acknowledges those that have helped him along the way. “I would like to thank Don Stone, Coach Langer and the entire RoadRunner organization for making my junior hockey experience more than I could have ever hoped for. Also, I would like to thank my teammates for always supporting me and having my back through everything. I’d also like to thank my billet mom, Carol Murrel, for making the transition away from home seamless and for making me laugh every day. Lastly, I would like to thank my parents and brothers for supporting me and standing behind me through thick and thin.”
He becomes the tenth player on the RoadRunners season ending roster with a Division I college commitment, and the third RoadRunner in franchise history to commit to Niagara. The Purple Eagles compete in the Atlantic Hockey Association, and play in the 2,100 seat Dwyer Arena in Lewiston, NY.