Renato Engler started playing ice hockey for his home town club SC Rheintal before moving to Davos where he played at the various Junior levels, advancing to the top scorer of the HCD Elite A Junior team! During his Junior career he was also a member of the U16 through U20 Swiss National Junior teams. The highlight was representing Switzerland at the 2011 U20 World Junior Championship in the USA where the team, including teammates Niederreiter and Bärtschi, finished in 5th Place after loosing in the Quarterfinals against Canada in a tight game.
I talked to Renato Engler wanting to learn from him about his journey to the NCAA.
Early on when playing at the Novizen level (Midget Minor) he set his eyes on the NCAA to combine his dream of becoming a professional ice hockey player with obtaining a College degree. He forfeited the opportunity to play for HCD’s professional team to ensure he did not jeopardize his NCAA eligibility. The pro team’s management was not overly enthusiastic about his decision but respected it. Thanks to his successful participation at the World Juniors in Western New York, Bemidji University, MN, of the WCHA offered him a scholarship which he accepted verbally. The coach recommended Renato play one season in the NAHL (Wichita Falls) in order to become acquainted with the North American style of hockey, before joining the D1 team. This is the norm, not only for European players, but also for U.S. players, to spend one season, after High School, with a Tier I or II team. Renato has mixed memories about the season in Wichita Falls. He needed some time to get used to the new culture and the style of hockey played here. The smaller ice rink and more physical game, in addition to having less time once in puck possession, were a challenge at the beginning. However, after about a month or so, he got accustomed to the North American style and finished the season with a respectable 0.7 PPG.
On the academic side, graduating from the Sport Gymnasium in Davos with the Matura (see requirements http://dicuria.com/blog/ncaa-eligibility-academics/), he fulfilled the NCAA requirements without any problems. After visiting Bemidji University, he decided, for various reasons, to decommitt and to look for another institution to pursue his academic career. In spite of having some D1 scholarship offers, Renato decided to attend Lawrence University in Appleton, WI, classified as one of the top 100 Colleges in the US by US News, and to play for their D3 hockey team.
He is now in his Junior Season with the Vikings which he started very successfully with 1 PPG after 9 games! Renato’s goal is still to sign a professional contract in Switzerland after graduating from Lawrence in the spring of 2016. I’m sure he will reach his goal and play professional hockey with an Economic’s Degree from Lawrence University in his pocket!