JC Lipon dug himself a hole, but the Team Canada and Kamloops Blazer forward was confident he could climb out of it heading into a semifinal tilt with the U.S.
“I wouldn’t say I’m in the doghouse,” said Lipon, who spoke to KTW on New Year’s Eve from a hotel room in Ufa, Russia.
“I have a good relationship with the coach [Steve Spott] but, in his position, and with the calibre of players, I’m probably the least established and have to work that much harder to get ice time and to gain his trust back, which I think I did in the Russian game [a 4-1 Canada win on Monday, Dec. 31].”
Canada and the U.S. get underway on Thursday, Jan. 4, at 12:30 a.m. Kamloops time. TSN is replaying the game at 8 a.m., 4:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
The 19-year-old from Regina was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct for a first-period hit on a Slovakian player on Friday, Dec. 28.
He was suspended one game by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and missed Canada’s showdown with the United States on Sunday, Dec. 30.
Spott, unhappy with Lipon’s indiscipline, spoke with the WHL’s fourth-leading scorer after the Slovakia game.
“He basically said the call was weak, obviously, but that’s the second major you’ve taken,” Lipon recalled of the conversation.
“It’s hard. I don’t know if you can deliver big hits without getting called, but we have to respect the officials at the end of the day.
“I’ve got to face the music and I’m over it now. It’s in the past.”
Lipon was selected to the team in part because of his ability to play physical, in-your-face hockey.
The line between what’s acceptable and what isn’t is blurred in today’s game at the best of times, even more so when the IIHF is calling the shots.
“It bothers me when I sit out a game and watch a headshot that was called but, because our guy didn’t stay down, I don’t think they review it, unless it’s reported,” said Lipon, referring to a hit on Sunday by American captain Jake McCabe, which led to his ejection from the U.S.-Canada pool game.
“It was clearly intentional, yet he played today with no punishment. Again, it’s out my control.”
Lipon’s ice time was limited against Russia, but he did see action on the penalty kill and the Blazer right-winger felt good about his performance.
Lipon will continue competing for ice time on the fourth line with Nathan MacKinnon, the 18-year-old Halifax Mooseheads star who many expect to go No. 1 overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft — “He’s a pretty decent player . . .,” Lipon said.
After the semifinal, Canada has only one game remaining, leaving Lipon with a final opportunity to make memories he will never forget.
“Overall, it’s just a huge honour being on the team and every player here knows that they have to check their ego at the door and play the minutes they are given,” Lipon said.
“Everyone is buying in. It’s a pretty special group and I’m glad to be a part of it.”