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On the night before they stepped onto the ice as foes for the first time in their lives, Matt and Ryan Rupert cut a deal at dinner.
“We just decided if one of us was in a good scoring position, let him have the shot,” said Ryan, who was with the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder at the time last season. “If there’s a wide-open chance, don’t be defending him.
“That was the plan.”
The devious arrangement didn’t work out. Matt hit “about five posts” in his Indy Fuel’s 1-0 victory and neither of the ex-London Knights forwards registered a goal.
“It was crazy,” Matt said. “We were kind of setting each other up, even though we were on opposite teams. But at least we can say we did play once against each other.”
If the 23-year-old twins from Grand Bend get their wish, it may never happen again.
Earlier this summer, Ryan signed on with the Indianapolis team largely based on the word of his brother. Matt scored 21 goals in his first Fuel campaign and that figure is bound to increase with a familiar face feeding him the puck.
“We talked about it all the time (with Indy coach Bernie Johns, a former Sudbury Wolves player) how we had to get Ryan here,” Matt said. “We’ve done better playing together, and we haven’t done that for a full season since London.
“It would be nice to get a full year in to see what else we could do.”
Ryan, the former Maple Leafs prospect who ended up in the Senators system, was hobbled by injury and ended up in a defensive-minded centre role. This move might help him pile on some points.
“I think we’re naturally thinking that,” Ryan said, “but I think right now, we’re more excited just to live together — me and him in an apartment, cooking meals and living on our own for the first time together.”
The Ruperts famously billeted with Dale Hunter during their rowdy Knights years. They were fixtures on Budweiser Gardens ice, especially with Matt playing until his overage season of 2014-15, and helped London to two OHL titles and three straight Memorial Cup appearances.
They haven’t enjoyed similar team success in the pros. Indy was second-last in its division last year, while Wichita was in the basement.
“Hopefully, we can have a better year, make a difference and make the playoffs,” Ryan said. “Hockey-wise, we’re expecting the same style — score goals and play hard. We’d like to make some footsteps in pro hockey and, maybe sometime in the future, go over to Europe and play there.”
First, they will attend the American league camp of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Rockford affiliate next month. They will try to make the IceHogs, and if not, Indy is the fall-back option.
Training camp should be a rather lively affair. That old goal-scoring plan is out the window now.
“That game we played against each other, we didn’t even hit each other,” Matt said. “We didn’t fight or anything. We’ll fight in camp, probably. Go toe to toe.”
And once that dust settles, get back to agitating others.
“It was good to try to find our own way,” Ryan said, “and now, we know we want to be together and hopefully, play together the rest of our careers.”
London News & Search