Ex-Giant signs on with T-Birds

Chilliwack's Wes Vannieuwenhuizen is bypassing professional hockey in favour of education and a spot with the UBC Thunderbirds.

Chilliwack native Wes Vannieuwenhuizen will be joining the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds this fall.

Vannieuwenhuizen, 21 years old, is graduating from the Western Hockey League after four seasons with the Vancouver Giants. The six-foot-three and 208 pound blueliner played 191 regular season games for the G-Men, netting five goals, 31 points and 416 penalty minutes.

“Wes is a big, steady and tough blueliner who is hard to play against,” said UBC coach Milan Dragicevic. “He was the captain of the Giants and played in all key situations. I like the aggressiveness and leadership that he brings to each game and the fact he is a big body that protects the front of the net and is tough in the corners.”

Vannieuwenhuizen celebrated his birthday April 20, and looks forward to joining former Vancouver teammate Neil Manning with the T-Birds.

“Neil has give me a lot of advice and help during the application process, and it will definitely be nice to have a familiar face on the team and somebody to show me around campus,” he said. “UBC is the right fit for me because it is a great university with a solid hockey team and is close to my hometown, which should make for a comfortable transition from the WHL to the CIS.”

Vannieuwenhuizen will enter the faculty of Arts.