It didn’t take long for Union sophomore left wing Luke Cain to get back into the swing of things in the Dutchmen’s Garnet-White game Saturday night at Messa Rink.
Coming off a broken tibia that ended his freshman season last
November, Cain, playing for the Garnet team, put a crunching check on Jason Walters of the White squad into the boards in front of the bench 13 seconds into the game.
That was a good sign for Cain, who is expected to be one of the top offensive players on the team.
“I felt good,” the 22-year-old Cain said after the White team’s 2-1 shootout win over the Garnet on the first day of official practice for the Dutchmen and college hockey across the country. “The trainer here [Cheryl Rockwood] put together a good program for me over the offseason. I did a lot of power skating over in Cape Cod. It really paid off in the fact that, leading up to today, it’s been pretty intense. It felt good out there today.”
Cain had two goals and one assist in seven games when he suffered his injury in a game at Dartmouth on Nov. 9. With 13:33 left in the third period, he was hit by Dartmouth defenseman Joe Stejskal along the left-wing boards in the Big Green zone. Cain’s skate may have gotten caught in the ice near the board. As he fell to the ice, Cain’s skate and ankle were turned to the right at a 90-degree angle.
It was a frightening injury to see.
But the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Cain didn’t show any ill effects of it in the game. He continued to deliver big hits. Later in the first, Jason Shaffer was victimized along the left-wing boards in the White zone.
In the third period, Cain delivered two bruising checks on Jeff Christiansen along the right-wing glass in the White zone.
“He’s been doing the skills sessions very well,” Union coach Nate Leaman said. “There’s been minimal contact in those. But there was a lot of contact in this morning’s practice, so I thought he did super there.
“He’s always going to play hard. He doesn’t know how to play soft. He’s going to be fine. It’s going to take a little time to get his timing back, but he’ll be OK.”
Late in the spring, Cain received a medical redshirt from the NCAA. That means he has four years of eligibility.
For Leaman, it’s almost like having a new recruit. Before coming to Union last year, Cain had 40 goals and 45 assists for the British Columbia Junior Hockey League’s Cowichan Valley Capitals.
“Just in the fact how much he had to sit back and learn last year, I think that’s going to be the biggest component that separates him,” Leaman said. “Once he gets his timing back, and his hands come around a little bit [and] just getting back into with the speed of the play, I think he’s going to take off. I think the world of him. He’s got a lot of potential, and he’s going to provide us with a good element to our team in being physical, and having to make plays.”
The big key for Cain was not having any fear as he played.
“I feel very comfortable out there,” Cain said. “There’s no hesitation from me. There’s still some little things in the game, since I haven’t played hockey for so long, that need to come. But overall, I don’t feel scared out there. I don’t even think about the leg when I’m playing. I’m looking forward to a good year.”
Stephane Boileau scored for the Garnet team early in the second period. Walters tied it in the third period. . . .
The White team won the shootout, 2-1. Lane Caffaro scored the decisive goal.