Reflecting on Russia

Robin
Robin Short
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St. John’s IceCaps rookie forward JC Lipon was a surprise addition to last year’s Canadian team for the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Ufa, Russia. The Regina, Sask., native played on the fourth line for a Canadian team which boasted NHLer Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and top NHL draft picks Jonathan Huberdeau, Ryan Strome and Mark Scheifele.

St. John’s IceCaps’ JC Lipon played energy role for Team Canada’s 2013 world junior squad

It was quite a 2013 for St. John’s IceCaps rookie forward J.C. Lipon, who enjoyed a fine regular season and playoff run with the Western league’s Kamloops Blazers, was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets (third round, 91st overall) after he was bypassed in his first two years of eligibility, and signed to his first pro contract.

But the highlight for Lipon last year was a couple of weeks spent in Ufa, Russia last Christmas and New Years, when he donned Canada’s colours for the 2013 world junior hockey championship.

“It was a pretty overwhelming month, especially last year because there was no NHL (as a result of the lockout) and all eyes were on us,” Lipon said Thursday.

The 20-year-old Regina, Sask. product was a bit of a surprise addition to Team Canada, a roster bolstered by locked out NHLer Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and top NHL draft picks Jonathan Huberdeau, Ryan Strome and Mark Scheifele.

Lipon played a fourth-line support role, dressing in five of Canada’s six games.

“I wasn’t a top player on the team, so there was a bit less pressure on me,” he said. “But there were lots of people watching your every move.”

Canada finished fourth in Ufa, losing 6-5 to the host team in the bronze-medal game following an unbeaten run in the round-robin.

At the world juniors, Lipon said, it was hockey all day, every day. On off days, activities for the players were planned by Hockey Canada, but otherwise time was taken up with practice, video sessions and catching up on some R&R.

Which meant the Canadians weren’t out on Ufa’s streets.

“The driving over there was outrageous … people cutting each other off everywhere. There are no rules of the road

“We had police officers stationed in the lobby, a police escort to the rink. It was pretty rank. I think it might be a little better in Sweden.”

Lipon played a fourth-line support role for Canada, collecting 27 penalty minutes, second to Anthony Camara’s 31.

It’s that energy game IceCaps fans have come to recognize from Lipon, a player very generously listed as six-feet tall.

But his size, or lack of it, has not hindered his game in the pros. His 56 PIMS are second on the IceCaps, and Lipon was recently suspended for two games after picking up a match penalty in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pa.

“Everybody had a role to play, and I was only too happy to do what the coach asked,” he said of his stint at the world juniors.

Lipon spent part of the IceCaps’ 11-day holiday break in    Regina, and in Las Vegas where his parents own a condo. As a result, he had not seen much of the 2014 world junior tournament in Sweden.

“But it was good to see the States knocked out today,” he grinned following an IceCaps morning skate Thursday.

Lipon and the IceCaps make their first post-Christmas appearance on home ice Saturday night and Sunday afternoon when the Portland Pirates come to town.

The IceCaps are eighth in the AHL’s Eastern Conference at 16-13-1-2. St. John’s is coming off a 4-2 loss to the Falcons in Springfield, Mass., New Years Eve, and is 6-4 in its last 10 games.

rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: IceCaps, NHL, Team Canada Portland Pirates

Geographic location: Canada, Ufa, Russia Regina New Years Sask. Sweden Wilkes-Barre Scranton, Pa. Las Vegas Springfield, Mass.

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