Alex Rubin is having the time of his life.
And he’s only 19 years old.
The 2015 Alton High graduate is starring on the ice for the Jersey Shore Wildcats of the NA3EHL, a Junior Hockey league. He powered the Wildcats to the league championship last month and now is contemplating a future that could include big-time competition.
“It was a lot of fun and definitely a good time,” Rubin said about celebrating the NA3EHL team title. Jersey Shore won both games from Cape Cod in a best two-of-three series and Rubin figured prominently in it.
The winger scored twice in the final game as Jersey Shore overcame a 2-0 deficit and posted a 5-4 victory. His second goal proved to be the game-winner. Rubin also scored the decisive goal in the first game.
His heroics enabled Jersey Shore to repeat as league champion.
“The team has been very successful and it really was a cool season,” said Rubin, who was a top player for the Alton Redbirds in the Mississippi Valley Conference Hockey Association. “My biggest thrill was winning the championship.”
He added, “It was a pretty big jump going from the MVCHA to Jersey Shore. When I got there, I was on the fourth line and was more of role player. But I kept working at it and worked my way up to the first line.”
His diligence paid dividends. The Wildcats took note of it.
“I went from trying to keep the puck out of the net to putting the puck in the net,” Rubin said.
That’s mainly what he did for the Redbirds in MVCHA battles at the East Alton Ice Arena.
“Playing in the MVCHA was good preparation for what I do now,” Rubin said. “That and playing for the Twin Bridges team out of East Alton really helped me.”
He moved deftly from that arena to Junior Hockey and didn’t miss a beat. Rubin, however, can see and feel his improvement since his time on the local ice.
“I’m a lot better — 150 to 200 percent better,” he said. “The big thing with the coaches is developing your skills as a player. I had a head for the game at this level, but my body wouldn’t follow me at first. I had to get things up to speed.”
Rubin’s work ethic kicked in and he challenged himself to get better. He improved by practicing for perfection.
“You skate twice a day every day and you spend three or more hours on the ice,” Rubin said of his training regimen. “There’s a nutritionist to keep you at a high level and then you go to the gym to work out. You are pushing sleds and doing a lot of different things.”
He quipped, “It feels like you are in a car wreck or two.”
No matter. Rubin wouldn’t trade it for anything. He seemed to be built for the 50-plus game season and 8 months of sheer hockey grinding.
“It’s really something because you feel like a pro,” he said. “It’s a business and you have to do the job. I did what I had to do.
“I didn’t want to be the guy who got sent home.”
He’s home for the summer but hardly lounging around the house or taking it easy in general. He’s working for River Bend Outdoor Services.
“I’m hauling big logs and cutting down trees,” the 6-foot-2 Rubin said.
He hopes to advance to a higher level of Junior Hockey — perhaps NAHL, Tier 2 — next season and play in either the United States or Canada. Rubin is eyeing strong summer camp competition to make him attractive for the next level.
“It’s a college without the school,” he said of the learning experience. “The school is on the ice.”
The ice is running through Rubin’s veins. He can’t get enough of hockey.
“If I can make it to Tier 1,” he said of the Junior Hockey circuit, “then I’d hope to sign with a pro team.”
Think of Dakota Mermis, 22, a defenseman and fellow AHS grad now playing in the Arizona Coyotes’ system.
“I’d kind of like to follow what Dakota is doing,” Rubin said. “I hope it works out for me. I have to keep on working and getting on the ice as much as possible.”
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