Weidenbaum, a Scottsdale, Ariz., native who ended last season with the Decatur Blaze, has committed to continue his career playing college hockey at the University of Arkansas, starting with the 2017-18 season.
Last season with the Blaze, Weidenbaum played seven games and compiled five goals and nine points, in addition to two goals and four points in nine USPHL playoff games.
In committing to the Razorbacks, Weidenbaum sees numerous positives.
“I had a former coach that I played for get in contact with Arkansas about me because he thought I would fit in well there,” said Weidenbaum, who turned 21 in February. “After that, the assistant coach of the team then reached out to me to see if I would be interested in the program. Once I told him I would be, he then got me in contact with Coach (Brian) Gallini.
“I was most intrigued by the school’s location to begin with. I have never been to Arkansas or much of the South for that matter – it’s going to be a new experience. I was also very interested in the high level that the team plays. It’s always a new experience when coming into an unfamiliar dressing room. It is best to just work hard on the ice and the rest usually comes pretty easy after the older, more experienced guys realize that you are there for the right reasons, to work hard for your team and win games.”
“Sam came to us late in the season and really made an impact with our team,” added Blaze coach-GM Zac Pearson. “He’s one heck of a hockey player and Arkansas will see that immediately. Sam is one of several players from last season that will be playing college hockey next season and we can’t wait to make more announcements as the summer rolls on.”
In the classroom, Weidenbaum is looking at a curriculum in law or forensic science
“We will see exactly where that leads me once it comes time to pick a major,” said Weidenbaum.
Last season, Weidenbaum started the season with the NA3HL’s Long Beach Sharks and was then traded to the USPHL’s Dells Ducks before finishing out in Decatur. From 2014-16, Weidenbaum skated for the Marquette Royales in the MnJHL and USPHL.
“In my short time in Decatur, the memories I made with the boys on the ice was amazing,” Weidenbaum said. “To make it to Nationals and actually make it as far as we did is something I will never forget as long as I live. Off the ice, I made a lot of memories with people I will always keep in touch with. I lived with Grant Hughes and the Lichtenberger’s and I’ll always have fond memories of just spending time with all of them at the billet house as well. It was a great place for Grant and I to live.”
As a youth standout, Weidenbaum started skating at the Ice Den Scottsdale and after learning to skate, played travel hockey for the DYHA Firebirds and the Arizona Hockey Union, as well as three seasons for Horizon High School.
Now, in choosing to continue to see the country with his Arkansas commitment in place, Weidenbaum knows he couldn’t have done this all himself.
“Well, I definitely have to thank my parents,” Weidenbaum said. “The amount of support that they have showed me and still continue to show is the only reason why I am able to finally play college hockey. I also need to thank all the great coaching I've had over my 14-year career, from my first coach in Squirts all the way to Coach Pearson this season. I also need to thank Jim Stanaway, who was my coach in Marquette. He was the one who originally put me in contact with University of Arkansas this season.
“And last but definitely not least, I thank my teammates. Your teammates are the reason why you play the game. Over the years, I've had some pretty great teammates.”
Weidenbaum also offered advice for the incoming crop of Blaze players as the organization is beaming with confidence just ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.
“The best advice I can give to future Blaze players is just work very hard,” said Weidenbaum. “One thing they can expect out of Coach Pearson is his willingness to help players improve their skills. In the short time I was there, I could definitely tell that his small-area puck handling and shooting drills helped me a lot. I felt like I was able to finally impact the game positively after only a few practices with coach.
“One thing that new Blaze players should expect and be excited for is the fan base in Decatur. The fans definitely know how to pack the Civic Center every Friday and Saturday night, along with most Sunday games even.”