Blazers sniper leads WHL scoring race

JC Lipon added four points to his campaign as Kamloops beat the Kootenay Ice 6-3 last Saturday night.

JC Lipon is at the top of his game.

He’s also on top of the WHL scoring race.

The wily forward added four points to his campaign on Saturday night when the Kamloops Blazers rolled through Cranbrook, earning a 6-3 victory against the Kootenay Ice along the way.

Not only does Lipon lead the league with 32 points, his linemates—not just teammates—are second and third, respectively, as Colin Smith and Tim Bozon are hot on his heels, while another teammate, Brendan Ranford, is fourth overall.

Those four Blazers collectively have 102 points in 13 games this year, as Kamloops is still undefeated in regulation (12-0-0-1) and is the top ranked club in the CHL.

“It’s definitely exciting, not losing yet,” said Lipon. “We’re just playing good hockey and when we get a lead, we’re shutting it down and playing smart.”

Not that the Blazers haven’t had some scares.

Kamloops went to a shootout against the Edmonton Oil Kings last week, as Lipon scored a late shorthanded goal in the third period to force overtime. Their following game against the Lethbridge Hurricanes was a tight affair, as Kamloops saw a three-goal lead evaporate in the final frame.

Whether through luck or skill, the Blazers seem to have momentum and confidence on their side, while the pairing of Bozon, Smith and Lipon has been devastating to any opposition Kamloops has faced.

Bozon, 18, was the Western Conference nominee for Rookie of the Year last year, while Smith and Lipon have played together since they were 16 years old.

“Last year was the first full year we played together and it was really exciting,” said Lipon. “We built good friendships and on the ice, it seemed to work out and it’s just carried on to this year.”

While their ability to score has been a big factor in winning—they lead the league in the Goals For category—the work of netminder Cole Cheveldave has contributed to their success.

Cheveldave, 19, is the second-ranked goaltender in the WHL with a 2.06 goals against average and a 0.924 save percentage.

But one of those intangibles have also been a factor to the Blazers’ success, according to Lipon.

“The refusal to lose,” he said. “No one likes losing and we’re just finding our way right now, whether on the power play or five-on-five.”

Lipon has currently tallied 13 goals and 19 assists, which puts him atop the WHL for points. Last year, he collected 65 points in his second full year in the league.

Needless to say, leading the league is a pleasant surprise, even if it wasn’t what he was expecting.

“My goal is just be on the first page and the main thing is to win as a team and we’re doing that right now and that’s what feels good,” said Lipon.

The Prince Albert Raiders (8-3-0-2) and the Portland Winterhawks (8-3-1-0) are the only other WHL teams  in the top-10 of the CHL rankings, at seventh and eighth respectively.

Despite all their success so far this season, Lipon said the team can’t let their wining record get to their heads.

“The main thing is you got to start everyday at zero and forget about what you’ve done,” Lipon said. “We got to expect that every team is going to give us their best because we’re up there, they’re chasing us.

“It’s a challenge but our team can do it.”