ORONO, Maine — Senior center Kyle Beattie returned to the lineup during the weekend and gave the University of Maine hockey team some productive minutes during its split of a weekend series against UMass Lowell.
Beattie had missed the previous five games after suffering his second concussion, in a 5-0 loss to St. Lawrence on Oct. 19.
He didn’t register a point in the two UMass Lowell games but he had four shots on goal and played in all situations.
Beattie was Maine’s second-leading returning scorer after notching 27 points (6 goals, 21 assists) a year ago. Joey Diamond was the only returnee with more points (25 goals, 22 assists, 47 points).
Ironically, Diamond missed the game with a back injury suffered on Friday night.
“I definitely felt a step behind in Friday night’s game from being inactive for a couple of weeks,” said Beattie. “But I felt a lot better on Saturday night, and I played a lot better, too.”
Beattie explained that with a concussion, he couldn’t work out until he was symptom-free.
“I rode the bike and did the treadmill two or three times but I only had three practices before Friday’s game,” said Beattie.
“I’m still a little behind as far as my finishing touches are concerned….making the right pass and shooting when I should. But it was definitely good to get out there, and I should be full speed by Friday night,” he added.
“I was pleasantly surprised by Beattie and how he could play so effectively after being out for so long. I was amazed at what he could do,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said.
Higgins said Beattie’s return was “huge.
“Having a senior leader back in the lineup gave us confidence,” said Higgins.
Higgins battles through pain
Sophomore center Stu Higgins was another player who was playing after coming off an injury, although he is still in some discomfort.
He suffered a bruised quadriceps (above the knee) that required stitches when he blocked a shot in the third period of the 4-0 loss to New Hampshire on Nov. 4.
Senior center Klas Leidermark skated in the pregame warmups on Friday in case Higgins wasn’t able to play.
But Higgins played in both games.
“Stu really toughed it out,” said Whitehead. “He gave us valuable minutes. He iced the puck directly off his faceoff win when we were down two men [late in the first period]. That killed off the remaining 10 seconds of it. He gave us real steady minutes.
“He didn’t get his usual ice time because of the injury, but he was great on the penalty kill and in five-on-five situations,” said Whitehead.
“[The pain] kind of went away during the game, once the adrenaline started pumping,” said Higgins. “Sometimes it froze up on the bench, and when I went out there, it would tighten up again. But there weren’t too many searing pain situations. I couldn’t bend it very much, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”
He added, “I want to make sure it’s 100 percent before I play again. I’m going to take it day by day, and I hope to play this weekend.”
Whitehead said Higgins won’t practice early in the week.
Following Friday’s game against UMass, Maine won’t play again until it hosts Vermont for a pair on Nov. 30-Dec. 1.
Diamond’s status unknown
Whitehead said he won’t know if Diamond will be available until later this week. He injured his back in the first period of Friday’s game.
If he can’t play on Friday, Leidermark will take his place in the lineup and Bowdoinham freshman Kyle Williams, who took Diamond’s place on Saturday and scored the third-period game-winner, will move back to defense to replace Brice O’Connor.
O’Connor received a five-minute major and game disqualification for his hit to the head on UML’s Scott Wilson during a scrum in front of the net with two seconds left in regulation.
Wilson was face down on the ice before getting to his feet and skating slowly to the bench. He stopped at the Maine bench and voiced his displeasure before being restrained by a teammate.
A game disqualification results in a one-game suspension.
Whitehead said O’Connor was remorseful about his action.
“Brice is a great kid. It was a heat-of-the-moment type of thing,” he said.
However, the Maine coach also noted that if O’Connor had been assessed a game misconduct instead, which would have allowed him to play against UMass, he would have benched him.
“We don’t condone that type of behavior,” said Whitehead.
O’Connor led the Bears in blocked shots with seven in the two games.