Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Spruce Kings Alumni Called Up by the Pittsburgh Penguins

I have been posting a couple of newspaper stories dug up from the archives on former Spruce Kings that were knocking on the doors of pro hockey. Today this story jumped to my attention featuring a Spruce Kings alumni that was called from his NCAA team to become a black ace on a Stanley Cup winning team. Since 2009, when Brad Thiessen first had his taste of the NHL, he has as recently as this past season made headlines around the League posting his first win against the Columbus Blue Jackets and also picked up wins against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets.

Brad Thiessen was acquired by the Prince George Spruce Kings from the Penticton Vees at the trade deadline on January 10, 2005. He played 10 games in the tail end of that season picking up 5 wins and 4 losses. It was the following season that will be forever etched in the Spruce Kings record books, for it was the 2005-06 season that Thiessen really shined in the BCHL and started down the path that would eventually lead to the NHL.

In his 19 year old season, Thiessen played in 36 games for a total of 2058 minutes between the pipes with a goals against average of 2.89 and a save percentage of .925. As impressive as those numbers are, the number that Brad Thiessen owned was for shutouts posting five of them. Three of which came in consecutive games to set a record of 250 minutes of shutout hockey that still stands today in any amateur league.

A year after arriving in Prince George, Brad Thiessen was again the subject of a trade deadline deal that sent him to the Merritt Centennials. Thiessen would not play his last year of eligibility in the BCHL, instead opting to go on to the NCAA ranks with Northeastern University. After his third season with the Huskies, Thiessen signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins as an undrafted free agent and started playing for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins of the AHL.

This past season was another banner year in the hockey career of this Spruce Kings alumni who has achieved numerous awards and recognition for his contributions on the ice. The memories that this young man has accumulated over the years is nothing short of phenomenal. He shares one of them with Emanuel Sequeira of the Penticton Western News in this article dated June 12, 2012.

Bradley Thiessen, who played in the BCHL with the Spruce Kings,
stops Rick Nash in his NHL debut and first NHL win.

BCHL alumni loved call up with Penguins

by Emanuel Sequeira - Penticton Western News

Bradley Thiessen received congratulations in a surprising way after helping the Pittsburgh Penguins double up the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 on Feb. 26.

"I got shaving cream pie in the face from Kris Letang," said Thiessen, a BCHL alumni, whose career started with the Penticton Panthers/Vees, and also had stops in Prince George and Merritt. "It was after the game and the coach was talking and he came up behind me. They got me good on that one."

The Aldergrove resident, who has spent the last three seasons with the American Hockey League's Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, said the experience was awesome as he made 21 saves.

"It was something that you always work towards. That's the goal is to be able to play in the NHL and be able to get there and play games," said Thiessen, who is 72-37-0-4 with 13 shutouts in the AHL. "Being able to contribute to winning for the team was a lot of fun."

Thiessen liked that his NHL debut against the Blue Jackets was in the afternoon. It didn't allow him the time to sit around and worry about it or think about it all day. He also had his family and fiancé in attendance for support.

"Skating on the ice and hearing the national anthem and all the fans and what not kind of hits you," said Thiessen, who played three years at Northeastern University. "It was pretty cool just to be able to be a part of."

Thiessen admitted to feeling nervous, especially because of who he had wanting to make him look bad.

"It's the NHL and you have Rick Nash coming down on you and other guys like that, it's definitely a little nerve-wracking," he said.

Eventually he felt comfortable and that he belongs in the NHL. Adding to that feeling was playing with the Penguins young studs like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Letang and Jordan Staal.

"You get a lot of good practice with those guys," he said.

As for being around Crosby and Malkin, Thiessen said the best way to describe them is that they are just regular guys. Great teammates who care about the team and fun to be around.

"Having a front row seat from the bench, on the ice and in practice was a great experience," he added. "They are both extremely talented. There would be times during games one of them would do something and you just say, 'Wow' because there are not many players who can do some of the things that they do."

At season's end, Thiessen's future has become uncertain after the recent signing of Tomas Vokoun, acquired from the Washington Capitals to be Marc-Andre Fleury's backup.

"I have to talk to my agent and see what the options are and what direction Pittsburgh is heading," said Thiessen, a restricted free agent. "Vokoun and Fleury are pretty established goalies. Looks like they are set there."

But Thiessen believes he is ready to be a backup. Getting wins under his belt gave him the confidence to believe.

"It would be nice to have the opportunity where I can fight for a spot to play in the NHL," said Thiessen, whose favourite goalie was Felix Potvin growing up and more recently is Fleury.

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