'Unreal' experience for Van Herpt

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

Nick Van Herpt might be enjoying the ride to the Memorial Cup more than anyone.

Last September, the 19-year-old defenceman was at home in Kingston, packing his bags, getting ready to leave for southwestern Ontario to play in a Jr. B league after being cut by the Mississauga IceDogs.

But the phone rang and Van Herpt learned that 67's coach and GM Brian Kilrea was interested in acquiring him in a trade. He promised to report, the deal was made, and Van Herpt arrived in time to be on the ice for the team's first game of the season in Sudbury.

"It's been a perfect year for me, a career year," said Van Herpt, who began the year as a stopgap on the blue line because the team was hurting with injuries to Kyle Wharton and Elgin Reid.

But he quickly gained favour with the Ottawa coaches and began taking regular shifts.

"He just came in, worked hard, played well and worked himself into a position where we could use him as one of our (top) four defencemen a lot of nights," said Kilrea.

"He's just a guy that has added to our team. He's tough in our own end and he plays to win."

Van Herpt had three goals and 14 points in 64 games.

Most importantly, he's getting a chance to play in the OHL final and the Memorial Cup when he could have been toiling in a Jr. B circuit.

"I never in my wildest dreams thought that I'd be in this position ever," he said. "To be one of the four best teams in the CHL to play in the Memorial Cup, it's just unreal. You couldn't ask for anything more."

Van Herpt hopes to impress the scouts during the final and the Memorial Cup. If he goes no further in hockey, a career as a firefighter is his next choice.

SICK AND TIRED: LW Jeremy Akeson skated yesterday at the Civic Centre despite a continuing bout with pneumonia. The overager said he'd like to play tonight with linemates Lukas Kaspar and Jakub Petruzalek. If Akeson can't play, Robbie Lawrance or Jamie VanderVeeken would take his spot.

FREQUENT FLYER: Kilrea did not take the bus to London yesterday. He stayed in Ottawa and met with scouts to discuss strategy for tomorrow's OHL draft. Kilrea will fly to London for tonight's game and return to Ottawa by plane to be with his scouts for the draft. He'll fly back to London on Sunday morning for the second game later that afternoon.


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