By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
One month into the regular season there is a clear early favorite in the Western Hockey League.
The Kamloops Blazers are on a roll, and the B.C. Division leaders are leaving a swath of destruction in their path.
Through their first 13 games the Blazers have dropped just a single point. Kamloops is 12-0-0-1, earning 25 of a possible 26 points. The Blazers have won 10 straight games and already hold a nine-point lead in their division. Kamloops’ only loss of the season was a 4-3 shootout defeat at Victoria in its third game of the season.
Kamloops is coming off a statement-making sweep of a five-game road trip through the WHL’s Central Division. That trip included a 5-2 victory at Calgary, which is tied for first place in the Eastern Conference, and a 5-4 shootout win at Edmonton, the defending league champion and preseason favorite to repeat.
“The guys really stepped up and dug deep,” Kamloops coach Guy Charron told the Kamloops Daily News about the team’s trip through the Central Division. “There was some adversity on this trip. It showed that this team has a lot of character.”
The Blazers have been carried by an offense that’s been the most explosive in the league. Kamloops has scored 61 goals, which is nearly five per game. No other team has registered more than 46 goals. The Blazers also have a goal differential of plus-31, which is double any other team in the league.
With the team scoring so many goals, it’s no surprise to find Kamloops players all over the list of scoring leaders. The Blazers occupy the top four positions among the league’s top scorers, led by 19-year-old winger JC Lipon. Lipon, who had 65 points in 69 games last season, has an incredible 32 points in 13 games so far this season. That includes multiple points in eight of Kamloops’ past nine games.
Kamloops was considered among the preseason contenders to win the Western Conference title. Now the Blazers have to be considered the firm favorites.
Around the WHL
The Kelowna Rockets picked up 20-year-old winger and former Everett Silvertip Cody Fowlie off waivers. Kelowna had room for an overager because defenseman Mitchell Chapman has a long-term lower-body injury. Fowlie was dropped by Everett two weeks ago when the Tips acquired defenseman Connor Cox on overager cutdown day. … Two teams made moves to shore up their goaltending. Prince George acquired 19-year-old goalie Mac Engel from Spokane in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft, and Medicine Hat picked up 20-year-old goalie Cam Lanigan from Portland for a seventh rounder in 2013. Moving Lanigan cleared up Portland’s overager situation. … Saskatoon added its sixth 19-year-old defenseman to the roster when the Blades acquired Graeme Craig from Swift Current in exchange for 19-year-old center Brent Benson. … Kamloops’ Colin Smith was named the WHL Player of the Week. The 19-year-old center had three goals and seven assists as the Blazers went 3-0.
Points—JC Lipon (Kamloops) 32; goals—Lipon 13; assists—Lipon, Colin Smith (Kamloops) 19; penalty minutes—Travis Ewanyk (Edmonton) 36; wins—Eric Comrie (Tri-City) nine; goals against average—Cam Lanigan (Medicine Hat) 1.50; save percentage—Lanigan .945.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.