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Monday, March 4, 2013

Brendan Ranford set up two goals Sunday as the
Kamloops Blazers beat the visiting Kelowna
Rockets in what was his 343rd regular-season
WHL game.

(Keith Anderson / Kamloops Daily News)
By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor

Brendan Ranford is glad that he stayed in Kamloops, after all.
Ranford now has played in more games than anyone in the history of the city’s WHL franchise. However, he may well have left over the summer when the Blazers let other teams know they were willing to trade him.
They didn’t, and now Ranford, a left winger, has played in 343 regular-season games, two more than centre C.J. Stretch (2005-10), who now is with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign.
Ranford broke the record Saturday as he scored once in a 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Giants at Interior Savings Centre. He extended the record Sunday, as the Blazers, getting three goals from right-winger JC Lipon, two assists from Ranford, and 25 saves from goaltender Cole Cheveldave, dismissed the visiting Kelowna Rockets, 3-0.
The Blazers (44-18-5) swept their three-game weekend — they started with a 4-1 victory over the Cougars in Prince George on Friday — and are within three points of the B.C. Division-leading Rockets (46-16-4), who hold a game in hand. The Blazers are at home to the Victoria Royals, who have lost nine straight, on Tuesday, then will play the Rockets here on Friday and in Kelowna on Saturday.
“Definitely, it was a good decision, but I don’t know that I really had any thoughts of leaving,” Ranford said, adding that it was all part of the game that plays out every summer and early each season as teams and players try to sort out which 20-year-olds will stay.
“Yeah, definitely, that was the biggest thing,” the Edmonton native said. “It is (part of) the game.”
Ranford has missed only 15 games in five seasons, something for which he was quick to credit veteran trainer Colin (Toledo) Robinson.
“I have to to thank Toledo,” Ranford said. “He’s done an unbelieveable job of keeping me healthy.”
Last night, the Blazers were in complete control pretty much from the drop of the puck as they shut down the WHL’s second-highest scoring team.
“We didn’t compete tonight,” offered Kelowna head coach Ryan Huska. “That petty much sums it up. They worked much harder than we did. . . . At the end of the day, we didn’t compete the way we need to compete. It’s plain and simple.”
Ranford figured in Lipon’s first two goals, the initial one coming on a rebound. Ranford drilled goaltender Jordon Cooke in the logo and Lipon deposited the rebound, at 4:58 of the first period.
They were back for more five minutes later, this time Lipon whipping home a wrist shot from the slot.
Lipon completed his second career hat trick — three or four hats and one fedora hit the ice in response — at 1:48 of the third with a one-timer from the slot that zipped past Cooke catching mitt.
“He’s got an unbelieveable one-timer,” Ranford said of Lipon. “He’s one of the top two guys in the league with the one-timer. Bell from Kelowna has a pretty good one, too.”
That would be forward Myles Bell, who leads the Rockets in goals (36), assists (51) and points (87). He left the game at 17:50 of the first period after suffering a leg injury when he went knee-to-knee with Kamloops defenceman Sam Grist in a collision that was more accidental than anything.
Asked how badly Bell is injured, Huska replied: “I don’t know.”
Cheveldave, meanwhile, was rarely pressured as he record his fifth shutout this season and the ninth of his career.
As for Ranford, he has 347 points in his 343 regular-season games. Only six players in franchise history have put up more points than that and one of them — Hnat Domenichelli — is at 349.
Ranford was selected by Philadelphia in the seventh round of the 2009 NHL draft, but wasn’t able to cut a deal with the Flyers. Prior to the start of this season, he went to camp with the Hamilton Bulldogs, the AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens. However, he returned to the Blazers and is again a free agent.
He said he hasn’t heard anything about a pro contract.
“I’m just hoping for a really good playoff run,” he said. “NHL teams want winners. . . and I think we have the team that can do it.”
On Saturday, the Blazers also got goals from Marek Hrbas, Dylan Willick and Kale Kessy (shorthanded), while Brett Kulak and Cain Franson replied for the Giants, who had a 26-22 edge in shots.
JUST NOTES: The attendances were 4,542 on Saturday and 5,756 on Sunday, the latter being a Rain Check Night. . . . Lipon also scored three goals in a 5-1 victory over the visiting Spokane Chiefs on Dec. 5. . . . The Daily News Three Stars for Sunday: 1. Lipon: Hot trigger finger; 2. Cheveldave: Made the saves; 3. F Chase Souto, Kamloops: Hard work and good decisions. . . . The Daily News Three Stars for Saturday: 1. Grist, Kamloops: Two assists and physical; 2. Willick: Getting close to where he was before injury; 3. F Colin Smith, Kamloops: 100 points no small feat. . . . Vancouver D Reid Zalitach, who left Wednesday’s game here with a knee injury, has returned home to Winnipeg. He apparently won’t need surgery but his season is over.

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