Brendan Ranford hopes his latest Kamloops Blazers linemates are his last.
After spending much of the season bouncing from line to line, Ranford appears to have found a good one alongside centre Dylan Willick and right-winger JC Lipon. The trio has picked up 16 points, including five goals, over the last three games.
The Blazers hope they take their hot hands into a home-and-home set with the Kelowna Rockets — they’ll play here tonight and in Kelowna on Saturday.
Ranford’s not the type to complain, but he hopes he gets to stay with his current line for a while.
“I love it,” said the 20-year-old Edmonton native. “They’re both great hockey players, they both work hard and they both can find the net. It’s been a good combination.”
Ranford started the season playing left wing alongside Willick and Jordan DePape — a line featuring three 20-year-olds. But Willick broke an ankle on Nov. 2, before DePape injured his right shoulder nine days later and left the team in order to undergo surgery.
That left Ranford without a line, so he temporarily ended up with, among others, Charles Inglis, whom the Blazers acquired from the Red Deer Rebels.
When the Inglis experiment didn’t work out and he was released, Ranford again had to find new linemates. He ended up with Willick again, and Lipon joined the line after Kale Kessy moved up beside Colin Smith and Tim Bozon.
“I’ve been dealing with it since I was 18 years old,” said Ranford, who has 65 points in 56 games. “Since the second half of that season, I don’t think I’ve had the same linemates for longer than a couple of weeks. You learn to adapt.”
Ranford is in his fifth, and final, season with the Blazers — he is seven games behind C.J. Stretch’s team record of 341 games played — and has produced at a point-per-game clip throughout, with 335 points in 334 games.
After getting off to a great start to this season — he had 21 points through 12 games — he settled into a point-a-game pace through November, December and January. He is hot again, with points in seven straight games — during that period he has two goals and 11 assists.
“I’ve had many different (linemates),” said Ranford, with a chuckle. “Whoever you play with, it doesn’t matter as long as you do what you do best. Playing with JC and (Willick) has been great.”
He would love to keep his points streak alive this weekend, especially with the Blazers (38-15-5) only seven points back of the B.C. Division-leading Rockets (42-13-4). Kelowna defeated the visiting Everett Silvertips 4-1 on Thursday evening.
“They’re a very good hockey club, and you have to be above their work ethic,” Ranford said. “They’re a hard-working team and they work well as a team. We just have to do the same thing.”
JUST NOTES: Game time, at Interior Savings Centre, is 7 o’clock. . . . Ranford isn’t the only Blazers player with a points streak. Lipon has points in five straight games, and has five goals and four assists over that span. Matt Needham, with a goal and two assists, and Cole Ully, with two goals and three assists, are on three-game streaks. . . . DePape will be part of the opening faceoff for tonight’s game. DePape, who now is property of the Rebels, will be signing autographs to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The first 2,000 fans will get posters featuring DePape. . . . After Saturday’s game, the Blazers will have 12 games remaining, seven of them at home. . . . Of those 12 games, three are against the Vancouver Giants, three are against the Prince George Cougars and three are against the Rockets. The others are against the visiting Portland Winterhawks (Feb. 20), the Chiefs in Spokane (Feb. 23) and the visiting Victoria Royals (March 5).