Penticton Vees defenceman Sam Rossini is happy to be back on the ice after sustaining a knee injury during exhibition action that kept him out the entire B.C. Hockey League season and the playoffs until the Fred Page Cup series. Mark Brett/Western News

Vees D-man gets his chance to play

Sam Rossini finally playing after recovering from season-long injury.

Sam Rossini has had his ups and downs this season.

A down started early in the B.C. Hockey League exhibition season when the Penticton Vees defenceman took a hard hit into the boards against the Vernon Vipers resulting in a knee injury.

Rossini, an Inver Grove Heights, Minn., product, said it was frustrating going through the injury.

“I think the biggest thing through it all was to stay positive,” he said. “Not get too down on yourself.”

He had a lot of support during the recovery process from his college coaches with the University of Minnesota, where he has a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 scholarship, to Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson and his Vees teammates. Rossini kept in touch with them throughout the season, including the training staff.

“It was unbelievable. It was a good experience, but obviously I didn’t want it to happen,” he said.

One of his characteristics that shone through during his recovery that the Vees like is how hard he works.

“Great kid, works extremely hard,” said Harbinson. “Shows that by being able to come back in the same season from an ACL surgery. He’s a good character person.”

Now he’s happy to be back and playing. He made his Vees debut in Game 7 of the BCHL’s Fred Page Cup final soaking in the excitement of a league championship victory with teammates. He played his second game in the Western Canada Cup, presented by Sun Life Financial, on May 9 in a loss to the Chilliwack Chiefs. It was getting his feet wet a bit and said playing was good.

“I just tried to play a simple game and play hard,” said Rossini, who played in the U.S. Hockey League last season. “The first game in a while, you just got to keep it simple. Can’t try to do too much.”

He admitted it can be a challenge facing opponents in full season mode.

“I just got to out think them. Mostly it’s the mental part,” said Rossini. “I’ve trained hard all year to be ready to go. Just have to be ready when your name is called.”

Rossini is a two-way defenceman, but for now he is perfectly fine playing a more defensive role.

Harbinson said he has played well. On Tuesday he was asked to step up and log a lot of minutes in place of 20-year-old Mitch Meek, who did not play due to a coaches decision since the Vees can only dress six 20-year-olds.

“He is steady back there, which I thought he was,” said Harbinson.

Harbinson said Rossini is an elite defenceman with a big body (listed at six-foot-three, 200 pounds) with a really good stick. Depending what happens with the University of Minnesota, Rossini will likely be back with the Vees next season.

Right now, Rossini is enjoying the chance to play and be with his teammates. He feels more part of the team when he is involved in games. For that, he couldn’t be happier to be with them.

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