Nicholas Jones could barely sleep Tuesday night.
The Edmonton native had just captained the Penticton Vees to their fourth B.C. Hockey League championship since 2008 and 12th in franchise history. The Vees defeated the Chilliwack Chiefs in Game 7 of the Fred Page Cup 1-0 in overtime on Tuesday.
Jones said it is an unbelievable feeling and added the players did a lot of work to achieve this, battling through a 58-game schedule followed by 21 playoff games.
“It’s really rewarding, really satisfying to be champions,” he said.
Since winning a league championship was new to Jones, he didn’t really know what to do after Duncan Campbell scored.
“Let your instincts take over and just enjoy it. It was a great moment and it was awesome,” said Jones, who started his junior A career with the Sherwood Park Crusaders.
Duncan Campbell netted the winner 9:21 into overtime.
“I’m feeling on top of the world, there’s no feeling quite like it,” a jubilant Campbell told Black Press seconds after hoisting the trophy over his head. “I’ve never scored a goal that comes even remotely close to this one. We’ve been in a lot of big games, but this one takes the cake for sure.”
Campbell won a Western Hockey League championship in 2016 with his hometown Brandon Wheat Kings.
“You can’t really get the words to describe this feeling,” said Campbell, sporting a B.C. championship hat. “It feels great. I’m just over the moon.”
When the puck went in, the 20-year-old had a moment asking himself if that really happened. He then turned and looked at Jones and everyone else come off the bench.
“It was just pure bliss at the time,” he said.
It’s the second championship in three years for defenceman Gabe Bast.
“This one could be a little bit more special just going through what I have in the past few years with the injuries, the three Game 7s,” said Bast, who will join the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks next fall. “All the adversity that this team faced. We just kept finding ways to win.”
“It’s exciting. That’s why you coach,” said Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson. “You love to see the expressions. Just the excitement that comes from it.”
The players relished in the moment as the ride home from Chilliwack.
“The best bus trip this season. Especially after winning a championship, the extra passenger was special,” said Bast, smiling.