Thursday, October 11, 2012

Blazers, Lipon move to the top rung

While Victoria goaltender Partik Polivka looks for the puck, defenceman
Keegan Kanzig goes after Kamloops forward Chase Souto during the
second period at Interior Savings Centre on Wednesday.

(Murray Mitchell/Kamloops Daily News)
Daily News Sports Editor
It was Wednesday, 8:38 p.m., when the WHL website updated and moved Kamloops Blazers left-winger JC Lipon to the top of the points race.
And who saw that coming 18 months ago?
Lipon scored once and added an assist last night as the Blazers took care of business, shutting down the Victoria Royals 5-2 at Interior Savings Centre.
The victory allowed the Blazers (6-0-1) to move past the Royals (6-3-0) and into first place in the Western Conference.
The Blazers took a 3-0 lead into the second period of this one, thanks to Lipon’s first-period score and goals by Colin Smith and Brendan Ranford in the middle frame.
During the period, the home boys owned a 17-0 edge in shots in goal.
Victoria head coach Dave Lowry, obviously trying to spark his charges, changed goaltenders to start the third, with Coleman Vollrath taking over from Partik Polivka.
It worked, too, as the Royals outshot the Blazers 13-3 in the first 13 minutes of the final period and 17-7 for the 20 minutes. But, in the end, that 3-0 hole was too much for the visitors to overcome.
Tim Bozon and Cole Ully scored for the Blazers in that third period, while Jamie Crooks and Taylor Crunk counted for the Royals.
Crooks spoiled Kamloops goaltender Cole Cheveldave’s shutout attempt just 53 seconds into the third period when he fired home a quick centring pass from behind the net.
Cheveldave, however, deserves full marks for this one. Without three or four tremendous stops in the third period — a pad save on defenceman Tyler Stahl and stopping Luke Harrison on the rebound at 15:10 come to mind — the outcome may have been different. The Blazers’ sophomore goaltender finished with 25 stops.
This was a physical game with some great hits, none better than a collision featuring Lipon and Victoria defenceman Tyler Stahl in the first period. The two came together violently enough that both ended up airborne.
It just might be that these two teams are developing a rivalry with some emotion in it.
Like when Victoria defenceman Keegan Kanzig dropped stick and gloves in an attempt to get Kamloops forward Chase Souto to fight midway through the second period. A few cross-checks to Souto’s upper body and a couple of punches to the head brought only a minor penalty from referee Steve Papp. As Kanzig was led to the penalty box, Souto, on his way to the Kamloops bench, gave him a little wave. For that, Souto was hit with a misconduct.
By game’s end, Papp had given the Blazers 41 of 66 penalty minutes. All told, Papp gave out nine roughing minors and six for unsportsmanlike conduct.
But back to Lipon.
It’s not all that long go when he was a wakeboarder who played hockey. As a wakeboarder, he was of national calibre. As a hockey player, well, he was a scrapper who had started his WHL career with back-to-back three-goal games.
This morning, Lipon awoke as the WHL’s co-leading scorer, with 14 points, including five goals. He is tied with Kelowna Rockets defenceman Myles Bell, who has been playing some forward this season.
Lipon, a 19-year-old Reginan, has found magic with Bozon and Smith. The result was a 65-point season in 2011-12 and a fast start to this campaign.
At 6-0-1, the Blazers are one of three WHL teams not to have lost in regulation time, and people are starting to notice. They showed up at No. 3 — up from No. 6 — in the CHL rankings that were released yesterday, behind only two QMJHL teams — the Quebec Remparts (7-1-0) and Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (6-1-1).
The Blazers are back at it Friday against the visiting Spokane Chiefs (5-1-0), who won 6-4 in Kelowna last night. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Blazers may add two veteran defencemen to their lineup for that one. Tyler Hansen, who hasn’t played since Sept. 22 because of a concussion, could return to action, while Sam Grist, a 19-year-old acquired Tuesday from the Tri-City Americans, is expected to make his Kamloops debut.
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 4,025. . . . The Royals, who won 24 games all of last season, have put up six victories already. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. D Ryan Rehill, Kamloops: A force on back end, and plus-4; 2. D Marek Hrbas, Kamloops: Veteran leadership; 3. Cheveldave: Gives his guys confidence. . . . The Royals had six American-born players in their lineup last night. Only the Portland Winterhawks, with nine, have more Americans on their roster. . . . Austin Madaisky, 20, who is eligible to return to the Blazers, is one of 10 defencemen still with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons. Head coach Brad Larsen said yesterday he doesn’t plan changes until after opening the regular season with games Saturday and Sunday.

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