Put up your hand if you knew that Louie Nanne would be leading the Penticton Vees in scoring during the 2013 BCHL playoffs.
I call bluff.
No offense to Nanne, a nice guy with crazy skating ability and shot. The former Minnesota high school star led the Vees in round one against the Salmon Arm SilverBacks with six points, including five assists in four games. In round two against the West Kelowna Warriors, he tallied four goals and one assist in five games and earned Gongshow Player of the Week honours, the first for the Vees this season. If your math is as good as mine, that’s five goals and 11 points through nine games. He edges out Sam Mellor who has 10 points.
Nanne impressed me in Game 3 against the Warriors when he scored using a laser wrister, glove side that goalie Tyler Briggs couldn’t keep up with. He has also embarrassed goalies with a cannon slapshot. With his speed, he’s able to get back into the play quickly to try and recover the puck. Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said Nanne is one of the quickest, if not fastest, skater he has recruited.
When I spoke with Nanne about his play, he said he got off to a slow start to the regular season. It didn’t help he was plagued by injuries that struck just as he was becoming a threat. He has gained confidence and it has resulted in him trying things and taking more shots.
“Besides Game 4 against West Kelowna, I feel like it’s been some of the best hockey I’ve ever played,” said Nanne, as the Vees get ready to take on the Surrey Eagles in the BCHL championship for the Fred Page Cup. “I could be doing more, and I should have more points, but that’s the thing. I can only do what I can do. Also, I’ve messed up a bunch.”
It was just over a year ago when Nanne visited Penticton on a recruiting trip and described himself as a goal scorer. He was put into the position of being a gritty player with the U.S. under-18 national team. It was a role, he said, that seemed to stick with him. While he was thankful for the hard work that went into filling that job, he wanted to get back to his offensive flair. It appears that he has.
The future University of Minnesota Golden Gopher said he never puts too much pressure to perform because he has always dealt with the pressure which comes from his bloodline.
“Now the pressure has been a little different being put on Louie Nannie instead of being Lou Nanne’s grandson,” he said.
For those who may not know, Nanne’s grandfather was a defenceman and eventual general manager of the Minnesota North Stars in the NHL. He was also involved with the U.S. Miracle on Ice team that won gold in the 1980 Olympics.
Nanne feels he has made a name for himself in Penticton and that is a result of the people he has met in school and church.
When it comes to the Fred Page Cup, the Eagles could be in trouble trying to contain Nanne. He said his next game is going to “be even better than the ones in the past.”
His linemate Jedd Soleway said Nanne moves his feet like he has never seen.
“He’s one of the fastest kids on the ice,” said Soleway. “He uses it to his advantage. When he’s getting pucks on his stick and he’s moving his feet, he’s pretty dangerous out there.
“When Louie’s moving his feet, there’s no way to stop that,” continued Soleway. “Part of the reason why we work so well as a line is that we know what each other does. Nanne plays a role that he’s fast up and down the left side there. Get the puck to him and go to the net.”
Wade Murphy, who completes the trio, said Nanne, a Minnesota Wild draft pick, has definitely stepped up his game.
“I think he’s more tenacious around the puck in the playoffs,” said Murphy.
When mentioned that the Eagles like to play a physical game, Nanne said he loves that style.
“Being physical really does get me going,” he said. “Back in high school, first shift, I wouldn’t even care about the puck. I would just try and get a big hit. It is that little extra boost.”
That would be a good way to get the crowd going at the South Okanagan Events Centre coming up on Monday and Tuesday. Speaking of the playoff crowd for a moment, it was good for the Vees in Game 1 against the Warriors attracting 2,053, but then dropped to 1,544 in Game 2 and jumped slightly to 1,601 in Game 5. Those last two totals are not good for second-round action. Vees players will appreciate having more hockey fans in the city find their way to the rink. If you need some motivation, the Vees only have three homes games left at the most. The Western Canada Cup is being hosted by Nanaimo, while the RBC Cup is in Summerside, P.E.I.
Getting back to Nanne, not only do Murphy and Soleway like what their linemate brings to the rink, they think the world of him off the ice. Murphy said he’s a very good guy.
“He’s great around the community, a lot of charity stuff,” said Murphy, who hangs out with him away from the rink.
Soleway said Nanne has been nothing but nice to him since he joined the Vees from the Vernon Vipers.
“He’s fun to be around,” said Soleway. “I sit beside him in the locker room. We’re pretty good buddies.”
“All the time we are able to kid around in the dressing room,” said Nanne. “We are good friends. That goes for everyone on the team. Can’t have any enemies on a hockey team because you are together so much.”