The Kamloops Blazers’ JC Lipon notched a hat trick as the visiting Western Hockey League club downed the Victoria Royals 5-3 Friday night at the Cam Neely Arena in Maple Ridge.
The Royals may have been looking for revenge age last year’s season-ending sweep at the hands of the Blazers in the opening round of the Western Conference quarter-finals, but it was the Blazers who bested Victoria for the fifth time in as many meetings.
The Royals opened the scoring less than three minutes into the first period with a powerplay goal from Clay Spencer.
Lipon tallied his first goal of the night just three minutes later with a powerplay goal of his own to tie things up at one apiece.
The Blazers broke the game open in the second period thanks to a powerplay goal from Chase Souto and Lipon’s second marker of the night to take a 3-1 lead.
The Royals opted pull starting goalie Jared Rathjen at 12:31 of the second period in favor of Michael Herringer. The move apparently light a fire under the Victoria bench, as Spencer found the net just 15 seconds later on the next shift for his second of the game to bring the Royals within a goal.
Barely a minute into the third period, Lipon completed his hat trick to restore the Blazer’s two-goal lead. However, two minutes later Kolton Dixon would score with the man-advantage to put the Royals back within one.
Victoria pressed for much of the third period to tie the game, but Blazers goalie Taran Kozun mad 10 saves
In a last-ditch effort to send the game to overtime, the Royals pulled Herringer for the extra attacker, but were unable to find an equalizer. With eight seconds left, the Blazers scored on the empty net for the 5-3 final.
Lipon finished the night with four points, and now leads the Blazers and the WHL in preseason scoring with five points after two games. The 19-year-old right-winger from Regina had a breakout year last season with 65 points in 69 games.
The game was the first of two WHL exhibition games to be played in Maple Ridge this preseason, with the Royals back in town this Friday, Sept. 7, to take on the Kelowna Rockets.
Tickets are $10 for the match, with proceeds going to the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association and the Ridge Meadows Female Minor Hockey Association.
• To purchase tickets online go to selectyourtickets.com/promo and enter the promotional code Rustlers or Barracudas for access to the site. The promotional code will allow the website to determine where the sale came from and forward the funds to the appropriate association.