University of Maine freshman defenseman Ryan Hegarty has been lost for the men’s hockey season, but the youngster is also counting his blessings.
Hegarty suffered a chip in a vertebra in his neck Monday when he fell into the boards awkwardly during practice.
“It was pretty scary right after it happened,” said Hegarty. “I had some tingling in my right arm. But I could still move everything, so I knew that was a good sign.”
Hegarty said he was trying to check a teammate and was going “close to full speed” when he caught an edge on his skates.
“I didn’t go directly into the boards. I went in at an angle, which helped a lot. That made the injury a lot less [severe] than it could have been and I’m thankful for that,” said Hegarty.
He was taken by ambulance to Bangor’s Eastern Maine Medical Center where a CT scan revealed the chip.
He returned to campus later that night, and Hegarty said he has been wearing a neck brace when he sleeps to avoid further damage.
He doesn’t have to wear it when he is awake.
“Doctor [Jim] Turner said you can do some crazy things when you sleep,” said Hegarty, who added that he is expected to make a full recovery.
“There won’t be any chronic pain and it shouldn’t pose a problem for the rest of my career,” he said.
The Arlington, Mass., native said his neck and back are stiff “but that’s to be expected.”
“I’m not in any pain. Things are coming along real well,” said Hegarty, who can’t train or work out for four to six weeks.
The 6-foot, 200-pound Hegarty, the youngest player on the team and fourth youngest in Hockey East at 18, got off to a slow start and was a healthy scratch in six of Maine’s first 15 games.
He has played in all but two of Maine’s last 17 games and missed one due to injury.
He has not only played a regular shift, he has also seen time on the penalty-killing and power-play units.
Hegarty has three assists in 24 games.
“I’ve been very happy with him,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “He came here as a true freshman and has learned a lot. He has shown tremendous improvement throughout the season. He has become a very consistent performer. We have great expectations for him.”
“I’ve been pretty happy with the way I’ve played in the second half. I think I’ve made good strides and I’m looking forward to next season,” said Hegarty. “It’s tough to have it end like this. You always want to go out on a good note.
“But I’m in good spirits based on what could have happened. I’m thankful it isn’t too serious.”
Hegarty played for the U.S. National Team Development Program’s under-18 squad a year ago and had seven goals and 15 assists in 57 games.
He was a fourth-round draft pick (113th overall) of the Anaheim Ducks in 2008.