Penticton Vees
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Penticton Vees defenceman Thomas Nitsche.
Emanuel Sequeira/Western News

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New defenceman helps Vees end year with win

Thomas Nitsche is excited to join the Penticton Vees, calling it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“It’s such a privilege to play for this organization,” said Nitsche, a defenceman acquired from the Langley Rivermen for future considerations on Dec. 29. “I couldn’t have been put in a better situation.”

According to a release issued by the Vees, coach-GM Fred Harbinson made the move because a player like Nitsche is needed to win at this time of year. While adding the Rivermen captain, the Vees sent defenceman Nathan Deyell to the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

“As we get ready for the stretch drive we realize that our division once again will be battle every night to get through,” said Harbinson in the statement. “Thomas brings a veteran physical presence that you cannot have enough of come playoff time.”

The Rivermen currently sit last in the Mainland Division with a 13-14-1-5 record and Nitsche said the last two months had been difficult.

“This is the perfect reward for all my adversity, the turmoil in Langley and all the frustration from losing,” he said. “There’s a lot of bad things the go with losing. I was a part of them. After it was all said and done, it was almost like it was meant to be.”

While still battling the flu, Nitsche, who wears No. 3, debuted against the Warriors in West Kelowna. Nitsche said he felt all right.

“It was fun, it was good to wear the sweater,” he said. “I can only get better from here.”

“I thought he was really good on Saturday,” said Harbinson. “We only had five D-men in the lineup. We didn’t play very well on Friday. Adding him on Saturday was a big addition.”

The Vees now prepare to face the Centennials in Merritt on Friday then host the Surrey Eagles on Saturday. The Vees will be without Travis Blanleil and Jedd Soleway for the weekend. Blanleil is injured, while Soleway is serving a two-game suspension for a hit to the head. Cody DePourcq was also injured in the last game and is probable for Saturday. The Vees are still without rookie Ryan Gropp who is playing with Team Pacific at the Under-17 World Championship and goalie Chad Katunar is not with the team.

“He’s got some personal issues he’s dealing with back home,” said Harbinson regarding Katunar. “We’ll see how it goes after the week.”

When it comes to facing the Eagles, Nitsche, who is familiar with them playing in the Mainland Division, said they are a fast team that hits hard.

“They are just a hard team to play against,” said Nitsche. “You never like going against teams like that. The only way you can counter it is by playing the same way.”

Vees notes:

Team Pacific defeated Team Ontario 7-6 to place fifth during the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Gropp scored a goal to help lead his team to victory. In four games, Gropp finished with a goal and two points in four games. The Kamloops minor hockey product will likely return to the Vees lineup on Jan. 11.



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