DEREK Campbell has called on his fellow Hull Stingrays players to “find their passion” in order to boost their bid for the Elite League play-offs.
The 31-year-old winger - twice a winner of the regular season championship with Coventry Blaze and then Sheffield Steelers - believes the potential to deliver on-ice success is currently present in Hull, but acknowledges it has been a poor campaign so far.
It has been a grim few weeks for Hull, first losing top goalscorer Jereme Tendler to suspension after he tested positive for cannabis as well as suffering injuries to other key players, leaving them short-benched on a regular basis.
An 8-0 defeat at home to leaders Belfast Giants last Saturday was followed by a 5-3 road loss at Cardiff Devils the following night, taking Hull’s losing streak to four. A surprise win for Dundee Stars against Braehead Clan slightly increased the pressure on Sylvain Cloutier’s team who, in seventh place, head a group of four teams vying for the final two play-off spots.
If they make the post-season, the likely opponent will be either Belfast or the Steelers.
This weekend sees the return of Tendler after UK Anti-Doping - who carried out the drugs test following a game at Coventry on January 15 - determined a six-week suspension was sufficient punishment for the offence. Defenceman Martin Ondrej is also back following a groin injury, taking Stingrays import numbers back up to nine and giving them the ability to run three lines.
But Campbell said the team’s attitude had to change and a positive approach was needed if they were to extend their season beyond the last game against Dundee on March 25.
“We need to find the passion,“ said Campbell. “The passion has gone on certain guys. Some guys have it and that’s great to see but other guys … it’s just not there anymore and that comes with losing.
“I know - I’ve been on winning teams and I’ve been on losing teams and it takes a big character player to play through the bad times and keep the positivity of the club up.
“I feel the passion - I’m 31-years old and I still love the game. I still love practicing, still love playing, but it can’t be just one or two guys, it has to be a collection of guys and then other guys will see that and it will hopefully rub off on them.”
Campbell, now with his fifth Elite League club in six seasons, has impressed since making the switch from defending champions Sheffield in the summer.
More often than not on a line with Tendler and Jason Silverthorn, Campbell has delivered his fair share of points, with eight goals and 39 assists to date - putting him in the league’s top 10 for assists. His ability to stand up for his team-mates has also been proved again, with the Ontario-born forward racking up 240 penalty minutes.
With a game at title-chasing Steelers first up on Saturday night, followed by a visit from fellow play-off hopefuls Fife Flyers on Sunday, Hull need to take at least two points from the weekend. And Campbell said it was up to the more experienced players in Stingrays’ locker room to show the way in the closing weeks of the regular season.
“Good players, good teams find little things in certain moments of the game and build off that and use it to feed other things and that’s what we need to do,“ said Campbell.
“We need to find that little spark, whether it be in practice or in a game - that’s how you roll into the play-offs. I’d rather be a team on the way up than on the way down going into the post-season. You don’t want to go into the play-offs losing 8-0 like we did against Belfast last week.
“There is potential in our room, I think we do have the right guys and there are certain guys in the club who can bring that potential out, but we haven’t got much time.
“I’ve seen a lot of upsets in the play-offs over the years so you never know what might happen.”