Taking playing seriously, despite being on a break

Dunedin Thunder’s Canadian player Parker Evans-Campbell at the Dunedin Ice Stadium on Thursday....
Dunedin Thunder’s Canadian player Parker Evans-Campbell at the Dunedin Ice Stadium on Thursday. PHOTO: CHRISTINE O’CONNOR
Parker Evans-Campbell is glad to have found his touch.

The Dunedin Thunder will be glad too.

The 25-year-old Canadian forward has emerged as a standout for the side in recent weeks.

He has racked up four goals and seven assists to rank 19th in the national ice hockey league on points.

More of those will be important as the Thunder heads into its games against the Canterbury Red Devils in Christchurch this weekend.

The games are must-wins to keep the Thunder's playoff hopes alive. Having an in-form Evans-Campbell will no doubt strengthen the team's chances.

"It took me the first few weekends to adjust to the game," he said.

"I also hadn't really skated since the middle of March until the middle of May.

"I was a little rusty at first, but the second half of the season I've really found my touch and I feel a lot more like myself."

The game was less physical in New Zealand than it was in Canada, which took a bit of getting used to.

However, Evans-Campbell had been impressed by the quality of players. He felt the higher level ones could slot in at home in Canada.

It is something he would know, too. Evans-Campbell is in Dunedin on his summer break from playing Canadian college ice hockey.

Having grown up in High River, he moved 20 minutes north to Calgary and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology for university.

There he has completed three years of a business degree and will return for his final year at the end of August.

Previously he had played for junior teams and was coached by former NHL coach Brian Sutter.

The idea of coming to New Zealand was hatched two years ago, after players he knew returned from playing in Australia.

Upon learning there was a league in New Zealand he began emailing teams.

He was not picked up, but tried again last December and found a connection to the Thunder through former import Brendon Egli.

Egli put him in contact with the team and the rest fell into place.

"I think the opportunity I've had to play hockey at a high level and just the excuse to travel is pretty amazing.

"New Zealand, as soon as I heard there's a league and they allow imports, it was a no-brainer for me that I wanted to come.

"The way I think of it is just what an excuse to travel.

"Come here for four months while my school back home is off."

Alongside playing, he had been trying to help some of the Thunder's younger players.

Coaching was something he hoped to get into, while being a player agent was a potential career path.

In the next few years, though, he hoped to pursue a professional career, whether that be in North America or Europe.

He was not closing the door on a Thunder return either.

However, for now he was firmly focused on the next two weeks.

The Thunder is 11 points outside the playoffs, but has two games in hand over the West Auckland Admirals.

Closing that gap begins with two wins this weekend, as the Admirals have a bye.

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