Hockey twins given fresh start in Alaska

Nothing could have prepared Nathan and Jonah Renouf for the adversity they would face as newcomers to the Quinnipiac University hockey team last season.

The identical twins from Ontario, Canada had just finished an impressive season with the Surrey Eagles of the British Columbia Hockey League. Nathan and Jonah combined for a cool 35 goals and 75 assists in their lone year in the BCHL (2013-14) — having played the prior two seasons in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.

As a result of their individual successes, the twins were recruited to play at Quinnipiac University — one of the hottest college hockey programs in the country. The Bobcats were coming off two straight appearances in the NCAA tournament. As the Renoufs relocated to the east and began the season with the ECAC Hockey powerhouse, not everything went as planned.

“We kind of got off on the wrong foot with coaches,” Nathan said. “From there they started winning and we never could crack the line-up.”

After dropping a few games to begin the season, the Quinnipiac Bobcats won 8 of their 10 games in the month of November. The twins kept their hopes up that sooner or later they would be dressing for games. That was, until around Christmas time, when they sensed they were no longer a welcome presence on the team. The twins obliged, and began taking the proper steps to find a new team.

“We had to tell the coach what teams we wanted to talk to and he had to e-mail them. It was just a huge process and you need to follow NCAA rules from point A to point B,” Jonah said.

One of those schools that the twins asked their coach to talk to was UAA. Head coach Matt Thomas had watched the twins play in the BCHL, and told them they could become an important piece to the UAA hockey puzzle.

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“We knew they would fill a need that we had in our line-up,” Coach Thomas said in an e-mail.

For Nathan and Jonah, that was just the message they needed to hear in an otherwise depressing season.

“The familiarity was nice for us,” Jonah said, “Just to have somebody that was showing interest and knew what kind of players we were.”

After Quinnipiac lost to North Dakota in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the twins were finally free to leave Hamden for good. That had got what they wanted: a fresh start.

Not long after they arrived in Anchorage this fall, the twins were met with more bad news: the NCAA had ruled them ineligible to compete with the Seawolves until 2016-17. It came not only as surprise to them, but Thomas as well.

“The decision and rule change imposed by the NCAA after they had committed to us was extremely frustrating. It’s never an easy thing as an athlete to face the prospect of not competing for two seasons but they have been very mature about the situation,” said Thomas. “They understand that while it is unfair to their particular situation, we are fully committed to their development and role in advancing this program.”

And so once again, the twins had to stomach tough news. Unlike the situation at Quinnipiac though, they feel much more optimistic this time around about the situation.

“It’s a different feeling going from a school where you’re like not wanted to somewhere where like the coaches want you there,” Nathan said. “It’s a lot of more comfortable here for us and we’re ecstatic to be here.”

It’s apparent that whatever the twins lack in game experience, they more than make up for in optimism.