Shawn Campbell waved a glove over his helmet, pretended to toss it to the crowd and flashed a grin at his teammates.
That’s how a hat trick should be celebrated, but Campbell wasn’t finished.
Campbell scored his fourth career hat trick, and had his first four-goal game, as the Nelson Leafs defeated the Castlegar Rebels 5-3 on Friday.
“I just had the puck luck today,” Campbell said in what might be the understatement of the season.
Tyler Badger also scored for the Leafs (6-3-3), while Anderson Violette made 18 saves.
Hunter Maximnuk, Jaedon Little and Tyren Grimsdale replied for the Rebels (5-6-1). Ethan Lawcynski allowed four goals on 14 shots before being replaced by Justin Faiella, who made 24 saves.
Campbell has been a much-needed shot in the arm for the Leafs’ offence since returning to the team. The 20-year-old forward already has seven goals in just four games, with his four-goal performance leading Nelson to its sixth straight victory.
Campbell hadn’t actually expected to be playing for the Leafs this season. He was working on a refrigeration apprenticeship when hockey began, but said his company in Trail has helped him balance a full-time job with the Leafs.
“It was iffy …,” said Campbell. “At first I just wanted to work and get my apprenticeship going, trying to learn it, but my boss gave me the go-ahead to do both.”
His other boss, Leafs coach Mario DiBella, had plenty of praise for the veteran who was key to Nelson’s offence last season with 20 goals and 19 assists.
“He’s a prolific scorer, he’s got a great release and if that kid wasn’t playing today we don’t win that game,” said DiBella.
The game also marked the return of captain David Sanchez, who missed the start of the season after suffering a gruesome leg injury during a game in February.
Sanchez, who had his mother and sister at the game visiting from Alberta, received a hero’s welcome when he was introduced on the ice.
“Amazing. Surreal,” said Sanchez. “It’s all I’ve wanted. It’s been over 200 days, that’s all I wanted.”
The Leafs opened the scoring by converting a 3-on-1. Cole Wyatt, who played his first game of the season after returning to the team from the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors, slid a perfect saucer pass to Campbell. He had an open net to fire in a wrist shot for the 1-0 lead.
Sustained pressure by Castlegar resulted in a goal with two minutes left in the first. Maximnuk was waiting at Violette’s far post for a pass he easily swept into the net.
But Badger regained the Leafs’ lead with just 32 seconds on the clock. He gathered the puck, toe-dragged a Rebels’ defender and finished with a goal worth putting on a resume.
Campbell wasted no time after the break collecting his hat trick.
Nelson started the second period on the power play, and Campbell was in front of Castlegar’s net for a goal just 26 seconds after the puck dropped.
It was Campbell again less than two minutes later. Joe Davidson released a hard slap shot that rebounded off Lawcynski straight to Campbell, who slapped the puck back for goal No. 3.
Lawcynski skated to the bench as Faiella took over, but the Rebels didn’t break. A shot by Rebels forward Josh Wiens was tipped past Violette by Little on a power play, cutting into the Leafs’ 4-2 lead.
Little nearly added another short-handed when he caught Nelson’s Kaleb Comishin out of position for a breakaway. Little was denied by Violette, while Comishin was penalized for hooking as well as a 10-minute misconduct.
That proved costly, as Grimsdale carried the puck into the Leafs’ zone and shot over Violette’s shoulder to make it a one-goal game.
It was Campbell yet again less than two minutes into the third period. He stole the puck and converted a breakaway by using his momentum to slide the puck past Faiella for an astonishing fourth goal of the night.
The game slowed as a string of penalties filled the box for both teams.
Castlegar’s Darby Berg speared Leafs forward Tyler Pisiak and earned a four-minute penalty, which put Nelson on a power-play through to the end of the game. The Leafs didn’t score, but Campbell had already ensured they didn’t need to.
Leaflets: Leafs players presented roses to their parents on ice at the start of the game. It was adorable. … Nelson next hosts the Golden Rockets on Saturday.