|Goaltender Taran Kozun blocks a shot as defenceman Josh Caron|
keeps Hayden Rintoul of the Victoria Royals away from the front
of the net on Sunday at Interior Savings Centre.
(Photo by Keith Anderson/Kamloops Daily News)
By GREGG DRINNANPrior to Sunday, the last time Victoria’s WHL team came to town, on March 4, 1994, it took an overtime goal by Ryan Huska to give the Kamloops Blazers a 4-3 victory over the Cougars.
Daily News Sports Editor
Daily News Sports Editor
That gave the Blazers their 25th straight victory at home, a streak that would reach a WHL-record 33.
The Blazers (2-1-0) didn’t need to work overtime last night as they won their second straight game at Interior Savings Centre, beating the Victoria Royals, 8-2, behind right-winger J.C. Lipon’s first career four-point game.
The Cougars moved to Prince George after the 1993-94 season. The Royals were appearing here for the first time since moving to Victoria following five seasons as the Chilliwack Bruins.
Attendance was announced at 3,532, the sixth-smallest regular-season crowd in the building’s history and the lowest since its first season (1992-93).
Lipon, 18, enjoyed the first four-point night of his career — it was his 121st regular-season game — and had two goals for the second time. He scored twice on Oct. 4, 2009, in the sixth game of his career.
The Blazers’ game plan was simple.
“We just . . . wore them down and they didn’t want any part of us when we got pucks deep,” Lipon said. “They just kind of died and we took advantage of it. We didn’t let up.”
The Royals (3-2-0), whose team bus — the one with the bunks on it — hasn’t yet arrived, were road weary and looked it, especially after falling behind 2-0. They left home Thursday at 7:30 a.m., got into Prince George about 9:30 p.m., and beat the Cougars on Friday and Saturday nights. (After last night’s game, they headed for a hotel in Tsawwassen and were to be on the 9 o’clock ferry to Sidney this morning.)
So the Blazers put pucks deep and went to the net. It worked, too, with Lipon setting up Colin Smith for the game’s first goal, at 5:24, and scoring the second, at 10:25.
“I thought in the second half of the first period we started to cheat,” Marc Habscheid, the Royals’ general manager and head coach, said. “Yeah, we lost some key people, but you have to bring it every night . . . I don’t care what the odds are or what the conditions are.”
In his first two seasons with the Blazers, Lipon was a third- and fourth-line guy, what is known in the vernacular as an energy player. Last season, he engaged in fisticuffs on 15 occasions as he compiled 134 penalty minutes.
This season, Lipon is playing alongside Smith and Tim Bozon, and the three are being counted on for some offence. Lipon had two assists, Bozon had three helpers and Smith had a goal in Friday’s 6-2 victory over the visiting Vancouver Giants.
“Things are clicking,” Lipon said. “I just want to keep contributing but stick to my energy game and not get greedy.”
You know things are clicking when you get an assist as you’re on the way to the bench. That’s what happened on the Blazers’ sixth goal. As Bozon scored his first WHL goal, Lipon was almost at the bench, about to be replaced by Dylan Willick.
“I didn’t even know I got the assist . . . I just wanted the plus,” a laughing Lipon said. Yes, he got the plus; he finished at plus-2; each of his linemates was plus-4.
Smith wound up with a goal and two assists, with Bozon getting one of each. That means the line has 15 points over the last two games.
Chase Schaber added two goals for Kamloops, the second a shorthanded effort that was the punctuation mark on the decision as the Royals followed with a goaltending change, Braden Gamble coming in for Keith Hamilton. Matt Needham and Bronson Maschmeyer also scored for the Blazers, with freshman forward Logan Nelson, who is from Rogers, Minn., scoring both Victoria goals.
The Blazers’ outburst — they scored eight goals just once last season, in their 64th game — also helped goaltender Taran Kozun, a 17-year-old from Nipawin, Sask., win his first WHL start.
“I was nervous going in,” said Kozun, who made 21 saves. “But after the first couple of shifts I really got in the flow and all the nerves went away. We scored the first goal and I really felt like all the nerves went away right after that.”
He got a lot of help from a team that was solid defensively for a second straight game.
“The third period was the best,” Lipon said. “We didn’t get greedy and kept sticking to the game plan.”
The Blazers, who had 42 shots, allowed Vancouver only four shots in the third period; they did likewise last night.
“We had goals set in the room, eight shots a period,” Lipon stated. “We were under that so it’s a bonus.”
JUST NOTES: The Royals were 1-for-6 on the power play, leaving the Kamloops penalty-killers at 15-for-16 in three games. . . . The Blazers’ PP was 0-for-6. . . . Kamloops RW Chase Souto, who has had three concussions in less than a year, left the game in the second period after taking a hit from Victoria’s Zane Jones. Souto’s head hit the glass, he went down and looked discombobulated as he tried to regain his feet. Trainer Colin Robinson helped him to the dressing room, but Souto later returned to action. . . . The Royals lost D Tyler Stahl, 19, with a suspected concussion after he took a shot from F Charles Inglis of the host Cougars on Saturday. Inglis received a major for a check to the head and is likely to be suspended. . . . Victoria lost F Brandon Magee with an injury to his right leg in the second period last night. . . . The Blazers are at home Friday to the Spokane Chiefs. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Lipon: Game's best player; 2. Bozon: The kid's got game; 3. Schaber: Key shorthanded goal.
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