UPDATE- Vees acquire top scorer on BCHL deadline day
Set between the pipes and defence, the forward position was the only area for Pencticton Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson to improve as the BCHL trade deadline ticked away.
Harbinson improved the depth of his forwards by acquiring John Siemer from the Coquitlam Express for future considerations. Siemer led the Express with 20 goals and 49 points.
“We are excited to add a player of John’s skill and character to our line-up," said Harbinson in a release. "The addition of the league’s second leading goal-scorer will no doubt help solidify our depth upfront.”
In 87 games Siemer has amassed 48 goals and 108 points. Next season, he heads to Northern Michigan University. Prior to the BCHL, Siemer split time between the Waterloo Blackhawks of the United States Hockey League and the Fresno Monsters of the North American Hockey League in 2010. In the NAHL, Siemer collected 24 points in 28 games before moving to Waterloo, where he picked up 13 points in 33 games. The Glendora, California product was a graduate of the Los Angeles Kings Under-18 Midget program, the same team former Vee Beau Bennett played for.
As for Chad Katunar's status, Harbinson said that the goaltender is still at home in Victoria dealing with his personal issues.
“When he decides that it’s all cleared up, he will be coming back,” said Harbinson.
Harbinson had one card left to work with. Prior to making the deal to acquire Siemer, he said moves that brought in defenceman Sean Flanagan, forward Jedd Soleway and defenceman Thomas Nitsche were deadline-type trades. With the possibility of losing Louie Nanne for the season to an upper body injury, Harbinson said that would change things dramatically. The trade deadline was 6 p.m. with other leagues and 8 p.m. within the BCHL.
Vees captain Troy Stecher said he likes where the team is headed and felt they are on the edge of being great. In the absence of Katunar, backup Nic Renyard is thrust into the spotlight and is 1-1 while stopping 60 of 65 shots.
“He played really well. You can see he’s a little more confident now,” said Stecher.
The Vees are now on the road for their next five games starting in Surrey on Jan. 11. Having defeated the Eagles 4-2 on Jan. 5, Stecher said he feels they have an advantage over the home team.
“It’s kind of playoff atmosphere. You kind of set it on your calendar as a home-and-home,” he said. “You want to win both games.”
Stecher said their team is similar to the Eagles, who acquired Vernon Viper forward Adam Tambellini, who posted on Twitter about his trade.
Back in the lineup for Friday will be Soleway, who served a two-game suspension after receiving a major penalty for a blow-to-the-head and rookie Ryan Gropp.
Stecher said Soleway gives the Vees size and strength.
“Since he’s come here he’s been unbelievable,” said Stecher of the six-foot-two, 208-pound forward. “He finishes every check and playing with (Wade) Murphy creates so much room for him. He wins keys draws in the defensive zone.”
With Gropp having returned from the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with Team Pacific, the Vees captain figures the 16-year-old will have more confidence.
“He’s the best 16-year-old I’ve ever seen play in this league since I’ve been around,” said Stecher.
Gropp finished with two goals and three points in five games, while helping Team Pacific place fifth.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” said Gropp, following Vees practice on Monday. “Just being around so many good players. The best players in their country.”
Team Pacific won one game in regulation and three in overtime, while losing once in five games. Gropp said taking fifth wasn’t the finish they wanted but said the record they earned wasn’t bad.
“Every game was a battle,” said Gropp. “Every game was fast-paced, physical. I thought I played pretty well. I was getting lots of ice time. The coaches put me in all different situations. I thought I responded well.”
Having returned with confidence, Gropp is excited to get going with the Vees again.