When winger Kale Kessy of the Kamloops Blazers climbed out of bed on Thursday morning, he had played in 284 WHL games without scoring three goals in any one of them.
Three games later, he has two hat tricks, both of them coming in playoff games at Bear Mountain Arena in Victoria.
Kessy, a 20-year-old from Shaunavon, Sask., scored three times on Monday night, giving him six goals in his last two road games, as the Blazers advanced to the second round of the WHL playoffs for a second straight spring.
The Blazers moved on with a 6-2 victory over the host Victoria Royals last night. Kamloops won the best-of-seven series, 4-2.
The Blazers' next game will be Friday; however, they don't yet know who they will play or where they will be.
In the Western Conference, the Portland Winterhawks and Spokane Chiefs also have advanced, but the Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds haven't yet decided a winner.
The Thunderbirds take a 3-2 edge into Game 6 tonight in Kent, Wash. Should the Rockets win that series - a seventh game would be played in Kelowna on Wednesday - the Blazers will meet Kelowna in the next round and open on the road. Should the Thunderbirds win, Kamloops would play Spokane in a second-round series that would begin at Interior Savings Centre.
Last night, the Blazers took a 2-0 first-period lead, on goals by wingers Cole Ully and Kessy, and never trailed. The Royals twice got to within one, at 2-1 and 3-2, but weren't able to equalize.
Kessy, who was acquired from the Vancouver Giants, scored Kamloops' second, third and sixth goals, giving him a WHL-leading seven goals in the series. He had his side's first three goals in a 5-4 overtime victory in Game 4 at Bear Mountain on Thursday.
Kessy went into this playoff season having scored four goals in 28 playoff games, all with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Since being acquired from Vancouver, he has 34 points, 19 of them goals, in 37 games with the Blazers.
Defenceman Sam Grist and winger JC Lipon also scored for the Blazers, who got three assists from each of defenceman Joel Edmundson and forward Brendan Ranford.
Forward Ben Walker and defenceman Keegan Kanzig replied for the Royals, with both goals coming on power plays. Kanzig's goal was the first of his WHL career, coming in his 143rd game.
Lipon also had two assists and now leads the playoff scoring race with 14 points, three more than teammate Colin Smith and forward Brendan Leipsic of the Winterhawks.
The Blazers were solid on defence and with their puck management, as they limited the host team to 18 shots, just two in the third period.
Kamloops goaltender Cole Cheveldave stopped 16 shots, while Victoria's Patrik Polivka turned aside 36.
The Royals had prolonged the series with a 4-2 victory at Interior Savings Centre on Saturday.
The Royals got 47 saves from Polivka and scored the game's last three goals, with two of them coming from defenceman Brett Cote. Jamie Crooks and Logan Nelson, the latter into an empty net, also scored for Victoria.
Chase Souto and Smith scored for the Blazers, who got 21 saves from Cheveldave.
JUST NOTES: F Devin Oakes, who turned 18 on Jan. 22, made his playoff debut with the Blazers last night. The Prince Rupert native had his season with the junior B Kamloops Storm cut short by injury. . . . With Oakes in, the Blazers took F Mitch Lipon out of the lineup. That was the only change made by either team between Games 5 and 6. . . . Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said after Saturday's game that LW Tim Bozon is out with a long-term upper-body injury. Bozon injured his right hand in a melee at the end of Game 3 in Victoria. Bozon had 91 points, including 36 goals, in 69 regular-season games. He added two goals in three playoff games. . . . Kamloops F Joe Kornelsen (leg) hasn't played since March 2 but might be ready at some point in the second round. . . . The Blazers swept the Royals from a first-round series last season. . . . This is the first time the Blazers have reached the second round in back-to-back seasons since 1994-95 and 1995-96.
© Kamloops Daily News