Nielsen making his mark | Squamish Chief

Nielsen making his mark

Squamish native excelling in PIJHL, hoping for chance to shine in WHL

It's been a good 2011-'12 hockey season for Squamish's Brodyn Nielsen.

He's one of the top scorers on the North Vancouver Wolf Pack of the Pacific International Junior Hockey League (PIJHL), been called up to play several games for the Western Hockey League's (WHL) Vancouver Giants and is hoping for more success as the year continues.

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"It's been a pretty exciting year for me so far," he said. "Just going up and down with the Wolf Pack and the Giants has been a great experience. I got my first goal and first fight in the WHL in December and it's just been a really fun season so far."

Nielsen notched his first WHL goal against the Calgary Hitmen on Jan. 4 and managed to light the lamp with another Squamish product, Josh Thrower, manning the blue line for Calgary.

"He was on the ice but I didn't really know until after the game," he said, noting that he's friends with both Josh and his brother Dalton Thrower of the WHL's Saskatoon Blades. "Everyone started cheering, but then his family was kind of like, 'Wait a second here.' But I think they were all really happy. I think even Josh was happy for me even though he got the minus on the play."

Nielsen ended up playing seven games in total for the Giants from mid-December to mid-January and then re-joined the Wolf Pack, who are putting together the best-ever season in the club's history.

"I think there's more focus this year because we're actually playing for something right now, we're playing for the playoffs," he said. "Everyone is focused and determined to make the playoffs."

Nielsen played parts of both the 2009-'10 and 2010-'11 seasons with the Pack when they were based in Squamish but he said this is the strongest incarnation of the team he can remember.

"I think the move attracted better players to come and try out," he said. "[Head coach] Matt [Samson] made some good choices and recruited some really good players for this year."

One of the good players is undoubtedly Nielsen. He's third on the team in scoring with 34 points in 36 games, leads the team with five power play goals and is second in the PIJHL with three shorthanded goals.

Another accomplishment for Nielsen was being named to the annual PIJHL Prospects Game, which took place in Abbotsford on Jan. 30. Nielsen, playing on a line with his cousin Carter Popoff of the Richmond Sockeyes, picked up three points and his team won 16-4.

"It was a really fun game," he said. "It was all younger guys and it was really skilled and hard hitting. My teammates were all good guys and it was a really wide-open game."

Nielsen said he'd like to return to the Giants in the coming months but his status with the WHL club is still up in the air. Ideally, he said he'd like to be in the lineup at the annual Squamish Minor Hockey night when the Giants take on the Red Deer Rebels on Sunday (Feb. 19).

"I'm really hoping for that one," he said. "It would be pretty amazing. I remember me, Dalton and Josh were just like those kids in the stands one day and hoping we could make the WHL one day. Now that it's actually happening it's very surreal."

In the meantime, Nielsen will continue helping the Wolf Pack on their quest to grab the franchise's first-ever playoff berth.

"If we do make it we just need everyone to stay focused," he said. "We have to go out there and play our game. I think we have a lot more confidence now than at the start of the season."

For more information on the Wolf Pack, visit www.northvanwolfpack.com.

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