In his first WHL season with the Kamloops Blazers, right-winger JC Lipon scored three goals in 53 games.
In his second season, Lipon scored three times in 65 games.
On Friday night, Lipon, who is into his fourth season here, scored three times in 5 minutes 39 seconds to spark the Blazers to a 5-1 victory over the Spokane Chiefs at Interior Savings Centre.
Hot? Lipon is as hot as A-Rod is cold.
Lipon is one of the reasons the Blazers take a 7-0-1 record into a Central Division swing in which they will play five games in seven days. That trek opens Sunday afternoon against the Hitmen (5-0-2) in Calgary. These are the only teams left in the 22-team league who haven't been beaten in regulation time.
Lipon enjoyed the first three-goal game of his career - when he scored No. 3 seven hats rained down from the ISC stands. He later added an assist, all of which left him atop the WHL points table, with 18.
"When you score the way he is," Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said, "there comes a time when you have the confidence that you're going to score every time you have the puck."
Lipon, a 19-year-old Reginan, couldn't disagree.
"Yeah . . . a little bit," he said.
Lipon didn't play a whole lot over his first two seasons as he spent most of his time grinding and scrapping for playing time.
"I learned a lot in my 16- and 17-year-old seasons" he said. "There were lots of frustrating days . . . not being in the lineup or just not playing lots. But once it starts going, it starts to be fun. I'm having a lot of fun right now and I just want to keep going."
Lipon, who banged in 19 goals last season, has seven already this season.
Last night, he opened the scoring at 2:51, banging his own rebound past goaltender Eric Williams.
"The pass (from Colin Smith) came in front," Lipon said, "and I was all alone. The goalie was down. I actually shot it right into his chest. I saw it come loose and just put it in."
Lipon made it 2-0 at 4:37 when he accepted a drop pass from Brendan Ranford and slapped the puck past Williams.
"I came off the bench and my eyes kind of lit up," Lipon recalled. "Ranford saw me and hit me on the right side."
It was 3-0 at 8:31 as Ranford, while on the power play, slid a pass to a wide-open Lipon on the left side.
"It was kind of tic-tac-toe," Lipon said. "I think Ranford could have shot but he gave it to me back door and it worked out."
This being head coach Don Nachbaur's Chiefs, however, it wasn't that easy. The Chiefs pressed in the second period and outshot the Blazers 19-4, but only scored once.
"If you look at our second period," Charron said, "we didn't play well at all. Fortunately for us, we have a very good goaltender and he kept us in it."
Yes, sophomore Cole Cheveldave was at his best. Again. He finished with 36 saves - he stopped freshman forward Connor Chartier on a second-period penalty shot, too - and very well may have won this game in the middle period when, according to Charron, the Blazers gave up 12 scoring chances.
"We had enough chances in the second to tie the game," said Nachbaur, whose club also didn't have much puck luck.
Late in the period, Spokane defenceman Reid Gow drilled the butt-end of Cheveldave's stick. Earlier, winger Mitch Holmberg, who had scored in each of his first six games, beat Cheveldave only to have the puck hit a post.
"It could have been a different game going into the third," Nachbaur said. "But we made too many mistakes. You can't make the mistakes we made against a good team. The first period we'd like to have back."
Centre Liam Stewart - yes, Lorraine, he's Rod's son - scored for the Chiefs, fighting off defenceman Sam Grist and putting a shot over Cheveldave at 18:01 of the second period.
Blazers winger Cole Ully, who had nine goals in 55 games as a freshman last season, scored his fifth of this season at 5:29 of the third and Ranford, who had a three-point night, added more insurance at 7:58.
There would be no more goals for Lipon, however. On this night, it seemed, three was enough.
"We had three," he said with a smile, "and didn't really need any more so I cooled down."
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 4,846. . . . Kamloops C Colin Smith had three assists and now is third in the WHL scoring race, with 15 points. . . . With Grist, who was acquired from the Tri-City Americans on Wednesday, and D Tyler Hansen, who returned from a concussion, in the lineup, D Jordan Thomson and D Ryan Rehill, two freshmen who have played really well of late, and sophomore Landon Cross, who is a bit banged up, were scratched. The Blazers also sat RW Jordan DePape, who is nursing a wonky right shoulder (he missed a lot of last season after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder on Nov. 4), and LW Chase Souto. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Cheveldave: In control; 2. Lipon: Hot start; 3. Gow: Under-rated. . . . The Blazers honoured Andy Clovechok, 89, in a pregame ceremony. Clovechok played for the 1945-46 Vancouver Canucks, who won the Pacific Coast Hockey League and North American championships. The Canucks were inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame last month. . . . Kamloops next plays at home on Oct. 26 against the Brandon Wheat Kings.