Rivermen's Campbell believes it is better to give than to receive
Evan Campbell was in the holiday spirit on Friday night, following the Christmas mantra that it is better to give than to receive.
Rather than shooting the puck, Campbell passed off repeatedly, picking up six assists as both his line mates — James Robinson and Mario Puskarich registered hat tricks — in a 8-3 Langley Rivermen victory over the visiting Coquitlam Express.
Robinson and Puskarich also had three assists as the trio finished with 18 points.
The BCHL junior A hockey game was played at the Langley Events Centre.
And according to Campbell, the game didn’t even begin all that great for his line.
“We were struggling at the start, the first 10 minutes of the game,” he said.
“Then near the end of the first, things started to open up and everything began going our way.
“It was just the way the game unfolded; it seems like every time we were on the ice, we were making stuff happen. The bounces were working in our favour.”
The Express’ John Siemer opened the scoring before Puskarich tied it up a few minutes later. And before the period let out, Robinson made it 2-1.
Robinson and Matt Ustaski made it 4-1 before Philip Zielonka cut the lead in half prior to the third period.
But Robinson capped off his hat trick 32 seconds into the final period. And after the Express made it 5-3 with a goal from Mitchell Fyffe, Puskarich scored twice more — completing his hat trick — and then Trevor Cope rounded out the scoring.
Robinson, Campbell and Puskarich swept the three star honours.
Rivermen coach and general manager Bobby Henderson said it has been a long time since he has witnessed such a dominant showing by one line.
“They took control of the game, it was pretty impressive,” he said.
“They have been pretty good the past couple of weeks and capitalized on their opportunities and had a pretty good night.”
For his part, Campbell said he has never had a game like this before, not even at the minor hockey level.
“This is probably the most points I have ever had in a game,” he said.
The six assists are a new Rivermen record, but three shy of the BCHL single-game record of nine assists, which is shared by three players: Ernie Gare (Vernon, 1971), Ken Stroud (Merritt, 1977) and Duane Dennis (Vernon, 1989).
“I did take a few shots, but mostly just passes to my line mates,” Campbell explained when asked if he was specifically looking to play set-up man on the night.
He leads the team with 27 assists and is second in scoring with 35 points.
Puskarich leads not only Langley, but the entire league, with 44 points. His 22 goals are also tops in the BCHL.
The eight goals were also a season high for the team, which twice tallied seven times back in the season’s first month.
The victory over the Express was the highlight of the weekend for Langley as they dropped a 6-3 decision to the Chilliwack Chiefs on Saturday night before skating to a 2-2 tie on Sunday afternoon against the Powell River Kings.
Both games were also at the LEC.
Overall, Henderson wasn’t too upset about only getting half of the available six points because he thought his team played well.
“All in all, I was happy with the effort,” he said.
“Saturday night, I actually thought it was a very good hockey game.
“I don’t think the score was indicative of the play, I think it was a little bit closer than that.
“(And) three games in three nights, Powell River is a very good hockey team, so it is not a bad tie.”
Against the Chiefs, Nathan Craft opened the scoring for the Rivermen before Shay Laurent and Ben Masella gave the visitors a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
Evan Anderson tied the score at two, but Trevor Hills and Jaret Babych scored 25 seconds apart to give Chilliwack the lead for good.
Puskarich added a late goal to make it 4-3 before intermission, however, Chilliwack registered the only two goals of the third from Alexandre Perron and Hills.
The Kings game the next afternoon saw the teams trade goals in the first period — Mitch McLain for the hosts and Luke Ripley for Powell River — and then the goaltenders take over for the rest of the game as James Barr made 41 saves for Langley and Jonah Imoo stopped 31 for the Kings.
Anderson put the Rivermen ahead 2-1 with four minutes remaining, but Powell River responded with a power play goal with less than two minutes to go.
The Rivermen had a dozen shots in overtime, but could not get the winner, settling for the single point.
Langley’s record sits at 11-14-1-5 for 28 points, which is last in the Mainland Division. A big reason for that is the team’s overtime record as they have the one tie and five losses, meaning they have let six extra points slip away. The team sits five back of fourth-place Coquitlam with a game in hand.
A bright spot for the team is their play at the LEC, as they are an impressive 9-3-1-2.
The Rivermen return to action from the holiday break with a home-and-home series against the Express.
The teams play at Coquitlam’s Poirier Sports and Leisure Centre on Dec. 28 before they face-off at the LEC on Dec. 29.