Former Barrie 'AAA' hockey player electrocuted

By Jason Bain, The Peterborough Examiner

KAWARTHA LAKES - A former Lindsay Muskie and Barrie 'AAA' player who died unexpectedly while travelling in Switzerland on Monday is being remembered as a skilled blue-liner who "didn't mind giving back" to his community.

Details of Bryan Rufenach's death have not been released, but QMI has learned he was killed by electrocution.

There have been media reports in Switzerland about a 23-year-old Canadian who was electrocuted at a train station near Bern after touching a wire.

According to an official with the Barrie Minor Hockey Association, Rufenach began his minor hockey career in Innisfil. He then played novice 'AAA' in Barrie in the 1998-99 season before moving on to the Barrie Icemen atom 'AAA' team in the 2000-01 season and the Icemen 'AAA' minor peewee team in the 2001-02 season.

From there, Rufenach went on to play 'AAA' with the York-Simcoe Express, followed by the Central Ontario Wolves 'AAA' organization before embarking on his junior career.

Rufenach, 23, a Cameron native in the Peterborough area, and a member of the Toledo Walleye of the East Coast Hockey League, was a seventh round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2007 NHL entry draft.

The six-foot, 192-pound offensive defenceman played two seasons with the Muskies, picking up 26 points in 48 games in 2005-06 and 32 points in 31 games in 2006-07, the latter in which he suffered a shoulder injury.

Current Muskies coach Paul Mattucci said he was "fortunate enough" to have coached Rufenach when he was an assistant coach in Lindsay in charge of the defence corps in his previous stint with the Junior 'A' team.

"He was one of my favourite players to work with as he was the most skilled player for his age when I had him," he wrote in an e-mail. "(He) just absolutely loved the game and always had a smile on his face when he was at practice."

"He was always willing to listen and work on the little things that were asked of him because getting better was all that he cared about," Mattucci said. "Upon my return to Lindsay last season, Bryan skated with us during pre-season practices and took it upon himself to work with our young defense, showing them the tricks of the trade that he had learned. Bryan was the type of person that didn't mind giving back."

Growing up in different cities and towns throughout central Ontario, Rufenach learned to skate at age one, just four years before picking up a hockey stick for the first time.

Rufenach then jumped into his minor hockey career playing for teams like the Barrie Icemen and the Central Ontario Wolves. By age 16, he had settled in Lindsay and became an up and coming player to watch.

Rufenach turned down an offer to play for the OHL's Oshawa Generals - with whom he was drafted in the 10th round in 2005 - in order to retain his college eligibility. He played four years at Clarkson University, in Potsdam, N.Y., and was drafted 208th overall by Detroit.

After graduating Clarkson, he played the 2010-11 ECHL season in Toledo. Last season, he split his time between Toledo and the Red Wings' American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Rufenach played in 54 games last season for the Walleye and was the team's fourth-leading scorer, according to the Toledo Blade.

"The entire team's thoughts and prayers are with Bryan's family as they get through this difficult time," Walleye coach Nick Vitucci was quoted in the Ohio newspaper. "Bryan was a great teammate and would play any role asked of him."

Rufenach signed to his first pro contract with Toledo on March 25, 2011 and played the final six games of the Walleye's 2011-12 season, the Blade reported.

Rufenach scored four goals in 33 games in his senior year at Clarkson and scored four goals in one game against Chicago on Nov. 4, the newspaper said.

He added 20 assists and had 34 penalty minutes for the Walleye. Rufenach was promoted to Grand Rapids of the AHL on three different occasions, picking up two assists in a total of 13 games with the Griffins, the Blade reported.

While several online profiles have Rufenach listed as being from Cameron in the City of Kawartha Lakes, several media have indicated he is from Barrie. His Facebook page states that he had been living in Lindsay.

His passion for hockey was well known around these parts.

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