The hockey season is over for Yukoners Evan Campbell and Joe Densmore.
Technically it could have come to a close on a higher note, but the two Peninsula Panthers junior B players feel it was the best of their careers.
“Overall (the season) was a huge success,” said Campbell, the captain of the Panthers. “We had a really good year. It was the best year of hockey I’ve ever had, for sure. We had a lot of fun and we’re definitely not hanging our heads for how we lost the westerns. We battled hard and it didn’t pan out for us.”
“It was a complete success,” said Densmore.
“There’s nothing bad about the season. It was the best season I’ve ever had.”
And why not? The two Mustangs alumni helped deliver their team its best season ever.
The Panthers, out of Saanich, BC, played their final game, vying for bronze in the Keystone Cup – the Western Canada junior B championships – in Sherwood Park, Alberta on Sunday.
Finishing fourth, the Panthers lost 5-3 to the Pilot Butte Storm out of Saskatchewan, who the Panthers defeated 1-0 in their first game of the tournament.
“We weren’t playing too bad,” said Campbell. “We played as a team and stuff like that, we just didn’t get the bounces and that’s how it worked out.”
“We worked well as a team. It was a good game, really close,” said Densmore. “They just found a way to win and we didn’t. Personally I had a good game, so I was pretty happy about that.”
Not helping the Panthers on Sunday was the absence of points from Campbell and Densmore, who were the team leaders in points during the regular season
“We just couldn’t score,” said Campbell. “I hit a couple posts, and stuff like that, but it was a little frustrating.”
“We were pretty short benched; there were a lot of injuries,” said Densmore. “We just couldn’t pull it out.
“I was personally pretty banged up and was having problems skating. We played six games in four days, so the exhaustion factor came into play too.”
However, both Yukoners were in scoring form when the Panthers took on the eventual gold medal winners, the Blackfalds Ford Wranglers from Lacombe, Alberta. In the 7-6 loss Densmore produced one goal and three assists while Campbell had one of each.
“It was a pretty close game, pretty fast,” said Campbell. “They have a good team. Their first line had some really good players.
“It was a good game, we just didn’t come out on top.”
The Panthers’ first appearance at the Keystone Cup, the team earned their spot winning the Cyclone Taylor Cup, BC’s junior B championship, for the first time in club history at the start of the month.
After three undefeated round-robin games, the Panthers defeated the hosting Fernie Ghostriders 5-3 for the cup, with Densmore finding the back of the net in the final.
The Cyclone Cup came after the Panthers finished the regular season in second – in their division and in the entire Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League – behind the Victoria Cougars.
The Panthers ended up facing the Cougars in the league’s playoff final, coming back from three games down in the seven-game series. In Game 7, which the Panthers took 5-2, Campbell and Densmore each had three-point games. Nothing new there, Densmore was second in points for the team in the regular season with 75 points and 31 goals while Campbell led the team with 87 points and 37 goals.
After two years with the Panthers, Campbell now exceeds the age limit for next year and may done playing hockey at that level.
“I think I’m done,” said Campbell. “I’m probably going to school next year, will work, and get on with life.
“I couldn’t ask for a better year. I don’t regret playing or anything like that.”
A year younger than Campbell, Densmore is eligible to play for the Panthers next season, though it’s too early to say if he’ll be back.
“I’m not sure if I’ll be back, I haven’t really thought about it too much yet,” said Densmore. “Next year I think I might come back and go to school here and I’ll probably end up playing here.”
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