Duncan Campbell looked good in his debut at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
He found open ice, created holes through the opposition, especially once in the second period giving the Penticton Vees a 2-1 lead over the Prince George Spruce Kings.
His breakaway tally was seven seconds away from giving him back-to-back winners, but the Spruce Kings, courtesy of former Vee Connor Russell, scored one last goal late while trailing 3-1 in the Nov. 5 game.
READ MORE: Vees hang on to defeat the Spruce Kings
Campbell now has three goals in two games. Not bad for a player who had not played in a month after his release from the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL.
“It helped having a full week of practice heading into the weekend,” said Campbell. “I had a lot of adrenaline out there. I had a lot of reason to play hard and just get back at it. I had a lot of fun. Give credit to the guys, they really helped me out a lot. They patted me on the back, hooting and hollering when I did something good. They helped me out on plays when I may not do the right thing.”
If he was doing anything wrong, Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson didn’t mention it. Harbinson was quick to point out Campbell’s early goal total.
“He plays hard both sides of the puck. He’s been a real strong addition for sure,” said Harbinson.
Aside from his trio of goals standing out, Harbinson said Campbell is a strong penalty killer and a really good addition on the bench.
“He brings a lot of everything,” said Harbinson, whose team also defeated Salmon Arm, 4-1 on the road.
Vees captain Nicholas Jones has been impressed with his new line mate.
“He’s a good fit with me and Klacker (Chris Klack). We found some chemistry in the first two games,” said Jones, who leads the Vees with 22 points in 20 games.
At six-foot-three, 190 pounds, Jones said Campbell gets in front of the net, uses his size and has a great shot, which was evident when he split the Spruce Kings defenders at the blue line to get to Stefan Wornig, who he beat five-hole. David Eccles sent a stretch pass to Campbell.
“He plays the right way. Does little chips,” said Jones, adding he hopes they can carry that chemistry into this week.
The Vees (17-3-0), ranked No. 5 in the Canadian Junior Hockey League, have three upcoming games. On Wednesday, they face the Coquitlam Express (6-13-0-2 ) and then have a home-and-home set with the Vernon Vipers (9-10-2-0) on Nov. 11 and 12. The first game of that set is in the SOEC.
In their last two games, the Express have lost 10-2 and 6-0 to the Wenatchee Wild, and in a two-game set against the Spruce Kings, the Express tied 3-3 and lost 6-4. They were also shutout by Salmon Arm on Oct. 23. The Vipers are currently on a three-game losing streak. They opened November with a 5-2 loss in Cowichan Valley, then lost 3-0 to Victoria on the road and 8-4 in Surrey.
Campbell’s early impression with the BCHL is positive, though he said when you score three goals in two games, it has to be.
“It’s still a good league. I hope to keep the pace up. I obviously don’t expect to,” he said. “You have to work for your chances. It’s fast, the guys are physical. You have got to compete hard.”
Campbell likes how he is skating and is trying to get to the right spots. He also feels he can give his teammates energy and doesn’t shy away from standing up for them. He came to Jones’ defence at the end of the Spruce Kings game when a skirmish started in front of the Vees bench. Campbell got involved with Russell, who he threw to the ice.
In other Vees news, defenceman David Eccles (96) was traded to the Nanaimo Clippers for future considerations, the team announced Wednesday.
The Vees were forced to make the move with fellow 20-year-old defenceman Gabe Bast coming off the injured reserve; the team was sitting at seven 20-year-olds on their roster, one over the BCHL maximum. Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson said in a team statement it was a hard move to make.
“This was an extremely difficult decision, but it ultimately came down to a numbers game,” said Harbinson. “David is a tremendous young man, who will be missed but we’re happy we can send him to a great organization in the Clippers. I know Mike Vandekamp is thrilled to have a player of his quality and character, and I know he’ll be a key piece for them moving forward.”
Eccles, 20, played parts of two seasons in Penticton, appearing in 73 career regular season games, picking up a pair of goals and 13 points to go along with 23 penalty-minutes playing in a primary shutdown role. He also played in all 11 of the Vees’ playoff games last spring. The Ancaster, Ont., product came to Penticton in September of last season after playing with the Carleton Place Canadians in the Central Canadian Hockey League (CCHL). Eccles helped the Canadians to a berth in the final of the 2015 RBC Cup in Portage, Man. The Vees thanked Eccles for his contributions to the team on and off the ice.
Vees notes: Defenceman Jonathan Tychonick and Team Canada White lost the bronze medal game 6-1 to Russia, in Sault Ste. Marie on Nov. 5 in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Tychonick assisted on Carson Focht’s late second-period goal on the power play. In six games, Tychonick collected four assists.