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Old 07-30-2008, 08:17 PM
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Stockton signs Neil Petruic

Stockton, CA - The Stockton Thunder, the proud ECHL affiliate of the National Hockey League's Edmonton Oilers, has agreed to terms with defenseman Neil Petruic, Thunder head coach Chris Cichocki announced today. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Petruic, who was selected in the eighth round (235th overall) by the Ottawa Senators in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, returns to North America after spending the 2007-08 season with HC Bolzano of the Italian league, where he scored 11 points (1g-10a) in 32 games along with 62 penalty minutes while helping guide the team to the Italian League's RBK Hockey Cup championship.

"Neil is a well-rounded defenseman who can play in all situations and we're confident he will be a top defenseman in the league," said Cichocki. "The thrilling part about signing a player with his credentials is he showed that he can put up points during a short stay in our league. When you combine the fact that he has over 120 games of experience in the American Hockey League and a championship that he won overseas, it translates into a wealth of experience he'll bring to our hockey club."

Petruic, who is celebrating his 26th birthday today, has played in two seasons (2005-07) with the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League and Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL, skating in 135 career games while scoring 23 points (4g-19a) and amassing 126 penalty minutes. Petruic participated in NHL training camp with Ottawa in 2006-07, appearing in a preseason game at Philadelphia on September 23 (4-3 Ottawa win).

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound defenseman appeared in a career-high 74 games with Binghamton in 2006-07, notching 13 points (1g-12a) and 89 penalty minutes. In 2005-06, Petruic was re-assigned to Charlotte of the ECHL and scored six points (2g-4a) in just 10 games.

Petruic appeared in 157 career games in his four-year (2001-05) college hockey career at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA), scoring 46 points (14g-32a) and posting 251 penalty minutes. Serving as a defense partner with eventual-Thunder all-star defenseman Beau Geisler, he helped guide the Bulldogs to an NCAA Frozen Four berth as a 2003-04 junior. Additionally, the Regina Saskatchewan native led the program's defenseman with six goals as a 2002-03 sophomore.

"After spending a year in Europe, I decided that I wanted to play again in North America - the Thunder gave me a chance to do that and I'm looking forward to helping them win," said Petruic. "Chris Cichocki had a lot to offer with the rink, the fanbase and how this team is on its way to competing for championship. All those things contributed in my decision to sign."

Petruic also credited Geisler and fellow Regina, Saskatchewan-native Ryan MacMurchy (Thunder right wing in 2007-08) for playing a persuasive role when the Thunder pursued Petruic as a free-agent.

"Beau said Stockton Arena is really nice and it's one of the best rinks in the ECHL," said Petruic. "He said the fans are great and energetic. Ryan and Beau had great things to say about the team and organization."
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