|Tim Bozon (left), Colin Smith and JC Lipon have been lighting it up|
on behalf of the Kamloops Blazers this season.
(Kamloops Daily News photo)
But not even the good doctor and his pal had the kind of chemistry that centre Colin Smith and his Kamloops Blazers linemates Tim Bozon and JC Lipon are exhibiting this WHL season.
To watch them shred the Portland Winterhawks for a combined 14 points in Friday night's 6-4 victory at Interior Savings Centre was to watch magic on ice. It really was.
When the night was done, Lipon, the WHL's unlikely scoring leader, had scored twice and drawn three assists. Smith, who leads the WHL in assists and is one point in arrears of Lipon, had a goal and four helpers. Bozon, who continues to impress with his pro-style game, had two goals and two assists.
The Winterhawks' top four defencemen, who are arguably the WHL's best group, couldn't handle the line's speed, cycling ability or physical play. And no one can handle the chemistry, which allows these three to throw the puck around as though it were on a string. On numerous occasions, one of the trio would throw a blind pass to an area just knowing that a linemate would be there, the same way you know that the day's first cup of coffee will be there to provide warmth and comfort.
Even Kamloops head coach Guy Charron, who had a pretty decent professional career, marvels at what he sees, even if he isn't all that surprised. In fact, you can't blame Charron if he is saying "I told you so" on frequent occasion, as in "I told you before the season started that these guys would be good this season."
Interestingly, Charron, in a pro career that included 734 NHL games and 90 in the AHL, says he never felt anything close to that kind of chemistry with any of his linemates.
Of course, as he said, "I don't think I ever had an opportunity to play with the same guys for two years. I was juggled on a lot of lines. Even the years I had some success, I never really had the same linemates for any length of time."
While the faded memory of a long-time NHL fan may see Charron as something of a sniper, he begs to differ. In fact, despite his having had 530 points, including 221 goals, in his NHL career, he says he wasn't considered a scorer back in the day.
"I was a checker in junior. I was a third-line player. I was a checker," he said. "I scored only 20 goals my last season, the year we won the Memorial Cup."
Actually, Charron scored 27 times with the 1968-69 Montreal Junior Canadiens — he was the fifth-leading scorer on what was one of the greatest teams in junior hockey history — but his point is well taken.
Charron's career changed direction the next season when he struck for 37 goals and totalled 82 points with the AHL's Montreal Voyageurs.
"I scored 37 goals and all of a sudden they thought I was a goal scorer," he said, before adding wistfully: "I wish I would have stayed as a checker, but . . ."
With increased production comes increased expectations. Which is what happened when Smith, Bozon and Lipon — along with their teammates, of course — slid into a drought. When the team followed a 14-game winning streak by losing five of six outings, the big line managed just seven points.
Finally, after beating Portland on Friday, Charron admitted what everyone had been saying. Attention WHL office: It was the schedule.
"We know the schedule wasn't favouring us," Charron said. "(We had) a lot of travelling and injuries which are caused basically because of the schedule — too many games in too few nights."
But we digress . . .
Of course, after beating the Winterhawks, the Blazers were right back at it the next night in Game 2 of what is a seven-game homestand. On Saturday night, they dumped the Prince George Cougars, 5-4 in a shootout, with Lipon scoring twice, including the goal that forced overtime. He later won the game in the shootout.
And when the weekend was done, Lipon had WHL-leading totals of 21 goals and 50 points. Smith was No. 1 in assists (33) and second in points (49). Bozon, with 36 points, including 15 goals, is fifth.
Next up are a couple of eastern invaders, with the Regina Pats here tonight and the Saskatoon Blades on Friday.
"I said at the beginning of the season that that line would be an entertaining line," Charron said. "It's worth the price of admission just to watch those guys play."
(Gregg Drinnan is sports editor of The Daily News. He is at firstname.lastname@example.org, gdrinnan.blogspot.com and twitter.com/gdrinnan.)
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